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NV conservation group supports FERC's transmission planning rule; Memorial Day weekend includes Tornadoes and record-high temperatures; A focus on the Farm Bill for Latino Advocacy Week in D.C; and Southeast Alaska is heating homes with its rainfall.

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U.S. Supreme Court allows South Carolina gerrymander that dilutes Black voters, Sen. Ted Cruz refuses to say if he'll accept 2024 election results, and Trump calls Mar-a-Lago search an attempt to have him assassinated.

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Smokey Bear thought only "you" could prevent forest fires, but decomposing mushrooms may also help, a Native American community in Oregon is achieving healthcare sovereignty, and Colorado farmers hope fast-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds will better handle climate change.

WI utilities make union jobs a priority for green projects

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Wednesday, April 10, 2024   

With the help of federal aid, Wisconsin is catching up to neighboring states in accelerating clean energy construction projects and the Badger State is taking things a step further by giving union workers greater access to these job opportunities.

Four major utilities operating in Wisconsin recently announced a pledge to hire union workers for clean energy development tied to federal incentives under the Inflation Reduction Act.

Kent Miller, president and business manager of the Wisconsin Laborers' District Council, said it paves the way for a smoother transition to more wind, solar and similar projects.

"With the commitment from the utilities to make sure that the wages and benefits are the same standard as legacy energy, it allows workers to focus on updating their skill sets to meet the needs of the projects, and not worry about, 'Are there concessions in wages and benefits?'" Miller explained.

In earlier phases of renewable energy construction, Miller noted some project leaders focused on bringing in out-of-state, nonunion contractors. As Wisconsin labor organizations now have a seat at the table, Miller stressed the next challenge is getting more advance notice before a project breaks ground, so they ramp up recruiting well ahead of time.

For example, Miller pointed out a utility-scale solar development requires a lot of labor and they want as many people as possible to know about potential openings. He added it includes apprenticeships.

"Somebody could start their apprenticeship career, complete their apprenticeship and become a journey worker through the duration of a utility-scale solar project," Miller stated.

He pointed to the Paris Solar Farm project in Kenosha County, which at its peak, had nearly 150 laborers. Of the apprentices, 70% were women or people of color.

Analysts said the hiring pledge and associated projects could lead to nearly 19,000 construction jobs with prevailing wages.


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