Anti-Union Stance Could Cost Clean Energy Companies
Last week, the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban new oil rigs and shut down existing wells. But the California State Assemblywarns that because clean energy jobs don't pay as well as fossil fuel jobs, this action may induce "potentially negative workers and communities." According to a 2021 study, clean energy workers earn $86,000 per year on average, while fossil fuel workers earn about $130,000 -- an earnings deficit of approximately 45%.
Why this Matters
What's happening in California could indicate what's in store throughout the country as more states transition to cleaner sources of energy. Clean energy companies have been vocally anti-union, which presents a serious roadblock to getting Americans on board.
In a Tweet, Tesla CEO Elon Musk implied that by voting to unionize, employees would be risking the forfeit of stock option benefits -- the public statement was deemed a violation of US labor laws by a California federal judge. In another high-profile case, Bright Power, a real estate water and energy management company, blocked its solar panel installers from unionizing by firing them.
Fossil fuel workers, who are unionized, have bargaining power for greater job security, health care coverage, pensions, and more. So while clean energy may create jobs, it's vital to ensure clean energy workers have the right to unionize and receive the salaries and benefits they need.
Promoting Clean Energy Unions
Some companies are working with unions to implement equitable labor practices. In 2020, Ørsted, the largest offshore wind developer in the world, vowed to use unionized workers and teamed up with North America's Building Trade Unions (NABTU) to provide workforce training.
The government also will play a part in strengthening clean energy jobs by passing policies that increase labor protections for energy workers, or even more radically, by passing better labor laws like the PRO Act.
President Joe Biden appears to be on board, stating that he wants to ensure clean energy jobs created by his administration will be "good-paying union jobs."
Building & Construction Trades Council Northern Nevada: Green Jobs should be Union Jobs!, April 22, 2021.
Center for Strategic & International Studies: Charting a Path for Just Transitions, March 10, 2021.