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OPINION

Vineyard Wind project ends the fight between labor and environmentalists

Future tax incentives for green energy should include support for union workers.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides spoke at Massachusetts' wind blade testing center in Charlestown after the federal government approved Vineyard Wind's permit. A project labor agreement between the Southeastern Massachusetts Building Trades Council and Vineyard Wind will kick-start work on the first utility-scale offshore wind project in the United States — and create 500 union jobs.
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides spoke at Massachusetts' wind blade testing center in Charlestown after the federal government approved Vineyard Wind's permit. A project labor agreement between the Southeastern Massachusetts Building Trades Council and Vineyard Wind will kick-start work on the first utility-scale offshore wind project in the United States — and create 500 union jobs.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

From the shot heard ’round the world to same-sex marriage to the Affordable Care Act, Massachusetts has been on the forefront of the most consequential issues of our time. This month, with the signing of a project labor agreement to begin work on the Vineyard Wind 1 offshore wind project, the state is a leader once again — in the 21st-century clean energy revolution.

This project labor agreement between the Southeastern Massachusetts Building Trades Council and Vineyard Wind will kick-start work on the first utility-scale offshore wind project in the United States — and create 500 union jobs in construction, installation, and maintenance. These positions will have union wages and benefits and first-of-their-kind workforce development opportunities. These won’t be jobs that come and go with the wind, but clean energy careers that stand the test of time, support families, and unlock new opportunities for the state’s highly trained workforce.

This agreement will build a diverse new pool of workers for Vineyard Wind and beyond, who will usher in a new era for clean energy technologies. Many of these workers will be from surrounding communities that have been directly affected by economic and energy challenges and climate change. Thanks to more than a half-million-dollar investment, low-income residents and communities of color will have increased access to pre-apprenticeship and recruitment programs, which will help train and diversify our workforce to unlock opportunities for those who often have been left out of the US economy.

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This historic announcement is a reminder that the days of pitting labor against climate action are over. Union workers will carry the banner for the clean energy revolution. But it is critical to continue unlocking opportunities and securing job training to ensure unions — the backbone of the American workforce — are leading the way in the green economy. We need to identify gaps in the offshore wind industry workforce and offer grants to higher education institutions and labor organizations to address those workforce needs. Grants can support training through registered apprenticeship programs, financial aid, and earn-as-you-learn education for new and incumbent workers to ultimately ensure that union workers are building our offshore wind revolution.

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Courtesy of Vineyard Wind

Congress also is poised to power the offshore wind industry by passing new tax credits and extending existing credits for wind and solar in the current budget and infrastructure negotiations. This will be critical in incentivizing the development of green energy infrastructure across Massachusetts and the country. We must also work to ensure that these credits support the deployment of union workers in clean energy development. By including prevailing wage requirements and the use of registered apprenticeships in our tax code, we can protect wages and labor standards and ensure that clean energy work is done to the highest standard.

Vineyard Wind will be the first of many offshore wind projects to come, and the state can use its innovation and commitment to opportunity to show the rest of the country how to get steel in the water, clean energy on the grid, and union jobs to workers. They stand ready to meet the demands of this industry, and Vineyard Wind and the Massachusetts Building Trades will serve as the model for the rest of the country as we build our clean energy future.

Edward J. Markey is a US senator from Massachusetts. Frank Callahan is president of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council.

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