How did Local 569 first get involved with environmental, climate, and energy policy issues?
The Local has progressive membership and leadership who recognized doing the right thing for the environment can be a win-win for workers and the community – and in many cases, generates even more jobs. Cleaner, healthier communities and safer job sites benefit local residents and workers.
Local 569 has a position in support of a transition to a low-carbon economy. How did it come to take such a stand and what is it doing to promote it?
Starting with solar, our members recognized the benefits clean technologies could bring to local workers, the economy and the environment. 569 was one of the first Locals in the nation to incorporate solar training into our apprenticeship program. From there, our training programs have grown to include energy efficiency, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and energy storage. These green technologies are helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs for our membership.
IBEW 569 and our sister Locals in California have advocated for clean energy policies that address climate change while promoting economic growth and workforce benefits. For example, SB 350 The Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 which sets a target of 50% renewable energy by 2030, doubling energy efficiency savings and widespread transportation electrification.
Having an Environmental Organizer for a labor union is pretty unusual. How did Local 569 come to have one?
As renewable energy expanded and especially with the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, the membership recognized workers in the green parts of the industry needed a voice and in order for clean technology jobs to be good jobs, they needed to be union jobs. The membership and leadership also saw value in collaborating and partnering with the environmental community to achieve win-wins for workers and the climate.
Local 569 has been involved with training for solar and other clean energy programs for a long time. How did it get started and what is it doing now?
Local 569 is also involved with promoting climate-safe transportation options. What is it advocating and what kind of transition would it like to see?
Thanks to smart climate and renewable energy policies, IBEW 569 members have built a historic amount of renewable energy and as a state, we have made a lot of progress reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There is still a long way to go but we are making strides. At the same time, transportation like cars, buses and trucks are very large contributors to air and climate pollution and there is still much work to be done on that front. Fortunately, we have alternatives that can provide clean transportation options and put electricians to work, for example building mass transit systems like light rail and installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure to support a transition to electric cars, buses and trucks.
Constructing a functional, 21st century mass transit system in San Diego and supporting widespread adoption of electric vehicles are two big clean transportation priorities for Local 569. We have been working with partner unions as well as environmental, community and environmental justice allies to advance local and state policies and projects that create these clean transportation options, put IBEW members to work and create career pathways into union apprenticeship for local residents.
Our office is also a test site for a new utility program here in San Diego that installs electric vehicle charging stations at workplaces and multi-family buildings around San Diego County. IBEW members installed the charging units and will be able to power up their plug-in electric vehicles here at the Union Hall. As more renewable energy powers our electricity grid, plugging in is cleaner than fueling up with gas. In the case of this pilot program, it also means saving money on fuel costs because of special rates offered by the utility.
What kind of policies is Local 569 advocating for the clean energy transition? E.g. local hire, energy efficiency standards, etc.
To ensure green jobs create pathways into the middle-class, it is essential to link smart workforce policy with programs and projects. Local Hire Agreements, joint labor-management apprenticeship partnering, workforce safety standards and certifications and responsible contractor criteria are some of the policy tools we support and ask decision makers to employ to create family-sustaining green jobs that provide upward mobility and career opportunities.
How has Local 569 sought to win union representation for workers in the “green economy” and how has it succeeded?
We have used all of the usual tactics in an organizer’s toolbox: grassroots, legal, political, media, building partnerships and coalitions. Our strongest organizing resource is – and continues to be – our Local union membership.
Has the Local 569’s support for a transition to a low-carbon economy actually created jobs for members? Examples? What is the future potential?
Since 2011, 569 members have logged millions of work hours building more than a Gigawatt of solar and wind projects, installing rooftop solar and electric vehicle charging stations at homes and businesses and most recently, constructing some of the largest energy storage projects in the western U.S. Energy storage is the next frontier and will allow us to maximize clean, renewable energy while providing important reliability benefits to our power grid. We also have some of North America’s best geothermal energy resources in our region. This is renewable energy generated from natural heat below the earth’ surface and can be a great complement to solar and wind because geothermal energy is available day or night. Geothermal power plants and energy storage can create construction, operations and maintenance jobs while helping us advance to 100% renewable energy, something the state of California is currently discussing.
In addition to creating jobs for our existing IBEW workforce, renewable energy projects have also created new pathways into union careers for residents in one of our most disadvantaged areas in California. Imperial County, which Local 569 also represents, suffers from very high unemployment and air pollution but has outstanding renewable resources like solar, wind and geothermal energy. Our membership invested in an electrical apprenticeship training facility in Imperial County back in 2008. Since then, we have brought hundreds of local residents into the IBEW who were able to build renewable energy projects in their local community while receiving skilled training, good wages and benefits and a voice on the job through union representation. Thanks to these reneawble projects, we were able to accept our largest number of IBEW 569 apprentices in Imperial County who are now on the path to a career as state-certified electricians.
As our state expands requirements for renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation and energy storage, we see millions of additional work hours and apprenticeship training opportunities on the horizon and the ability to grow the IBEW and build power for the labor movement. Smart climate policy has proven to be good economic policy in California.
What has Local 569 done to green its own facilities?
We have solar on the roof, energy efficient lighting, electric vehicle charging stations and we are in the process of installing energy storage at our Union Hall.
Local 569 has pursued a partnership with the environmental community. Why has it done so and what has been accomplished as a result?
From clean air and water to basic workplace health and safety standards, there are many shared values between Local 569 and our allies in the environmental and environmental justice communities. It only makes sense we would be standing together fighting for social equity, good jobs, healthier communities and a sustainable planet for future generations. Today especially, we face some of the largest threats to working families, the environment, immigrant rights and civil rights we’ve seen in generations. Strength in numbers and partnering with allies is how we will fend off attacks and accomplish lasting wins for working families and our communities. We have worked closely with environmental allies to elect candidates who share our values, defeat bad ballot Measures and advance sustainable projects and policies that benefit local workers.
Local 569 played a role in forming the Environmental Caucus in the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, one of the first if not the first such caucus in the country. It has inspired others to do likewise. How did the caucus get started and what are some of the activities it has been involved with?
Attaching a flier outlining our First-Year Actions and Mission Statement which includes history, purpose and summary of Caucus activities.