New York passes renewable-energy wage standards


New York State recently took a significant step toward generating thousands of good jobs and sustainable economic opportunity in New York’s renewable energy market. In what climate and job advocates are hailing as a crucial victory for all working-class New Yorkers, the announced FY 2022 budget agreement includes new provisions for prevailing-wage standards, among other crucial job standards, for all workers on renewable energy systems of 5 MW or more.

The renewable energy job standards package was the result of steady advocacy from the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council, the organization representing more than 200,000 unionized construction workers across the state. This marks a major victory for the NYS Building Trades, who under the new leadership of Gary LaBarbera, are making a major push for important job standards in New York’s burgeoning renewable energy industry.

“This is excellent news for New York,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the New York State Building & Construction Trades Council. “This accomplishment reinforces that good middle-class careers with benefits must be — and now will be — central to our state’s sustainable economy. We’re grateful to Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Heastie, and Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins for their continued advocacy in support of our working men and women, and we look forward to continuing to work with these exceptional leaders in creating good jobs and economic opportunity as we build towards the future.”

“The NYS AFL-CIO is proud of this victory led by Gary LaBarbera, president of the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council, which secures historic labor standards on large scale renewable energy projects across the state,” said Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO. “The Labor Movement, along with our partners, worked in lockstep to ensure we set a high bar in New York State by including prevailing rate, labor peace, Buy American, and Buy New York any time renewable energy credits are awarded on projects with a threshold greater than 5 MW. This is a tremendous victory that provides the right foundation needed to create good jobs utilizing a highly skilled workforce as we address climate change here in New York State.”

A wide and diverse range of labor and environmental advocates echoed the NYS Building Trades’ sentiments.

“We commend Governor Cuomo, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie for their leadership in moving this groundbreaking legislation, which will not only ensure that we’re addressing the climate crisis, but also creating good union jobs at all stages of work throughout the renewable energy system,” said Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

“These basic labor standards and responsible-contracting requirements are foundational for us as we continue to push for investment in climate action and green infrastructure at the scale science demands,” said Jeff Vockrodt, executive director of Climate Jobs NY, a coalition of labor unions representing 2.6 million New Yorkers committed to taking on both climate change and inequality. “We applaud Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Speaker Heastie, and other key legislative leaders, as well as Governor Cuomo and his team for securing these standards for New York workers in the clean-energy economy.”

According to the new standards for renewable energy systems of 5 MW or more with renewable energy credit (REC) agreements with any public entity, project owners must pay construction workers prevailing wage and be subject to DOL enforcement under Article 8. The project owner may be exempt from the above requirements with project labor-type agreements with state or local trades organizations.

In addition to these prevailing wage standards, the announced budget agreement includes provisions critical to ensuring a just transition for New York’s tradesmen and tradeswomen in the renewable energy industry, including requiring renewable energy systems of 5 MW or more with a REC agreement to:

Enter into a labor peace agreement with at least one labor organization seeking to represent employees involved in the necessary operations and maintenance services.
Comply with Buy American provisions for steel and iron products in the construction phase.
The agreement also creates a process by which NYSERDA or other public entities can create a bidding process to incentivize New York State renewable energy equipment and supplies during construction.

This package of new labor standards on renewable energy systems of 5 MW or more will apply to all RFPs and solicitations beginning October 1, 2021.

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