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    Rep. Ruiz Leads Call For Fair Labor Standards At California Offshore Wind Projects


    September 23, 2022 - Targeted News Service

     

      WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 -- Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-California, issued the following news release and letter:

      This week, Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) led 41 members of the California delegation in calling for the highest labor standards to be upheld at offshore wind projects on the California Outer Shelf.

      On May 26, 2022, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued the Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) for commercial leasing for these projects, which included a stipulation for any projects proposed under the lease areas to enter into a project labor agreement covering any stage of construction. However, construction components like the wind turbine's floating base are potentially outside the scope of the agreement.

      In a letter to BOEM Director Amanda Lefton, Dr. Ruiz and fellow members of Congress urged the agency to fulfill its commitments to complete projects on the California Outer Shelf with union labor at all stages of construction and called on the agency to comply with strong labor standards.

      "We are also in favor of strong guarantees in these agreements that would ensure that all workers receive a prevailing wage," Dr. Ruiz and the Members wrote. "We strongly agree with this administration's belief that anyone who works should receive a living wage, and it is essential these projects further empower the American middle-class and do not undercut wages for other projects."

      "The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters bare concerns pertaining to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's proposed lease agreements for the California offshore wind projects," said Pete Rodriguez, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters. "We appreciate BOEM's noble inclusion of increased labor standards, however, we request a more definitive policy regarding prevailing wage requirements and what constitutes items of construction versus items of commerce on these projects. If these developments are to be built, it is imperative that they provide meaningful economic prosperity and growth for the tradespeople of California."

      "On behalf of the Nor Cal Carpenters Union and our 38,000 members, we are excited about the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's proposed lease agreements for California offshore wind projects," said Jay Bradshaw, Executive Officer of Nor Cal Carpenters Union. "These innovative developments potentially will create numerous family-supporting construction jobs while addressing our energy and environmental challenges. We strongly applaud BOEM's efforts towards and this administration's belief that anyone who works should receive a living wage. We believe it is essential that BOEM add explicit prevailing wage requirements for offshore wind-related construction work and should clearly distinguish that assembly of major offshore wind components shall constitute construction and not items of commerce. For these developments to be successful it is essential that they create jobs that adhere to the established prevailing wage and benefit standards in California. These projects will be on the cutting edge of the green energy movement and must create opportunity for highly skilled U.S. workers. Just as important, by following these standards, we will create viable career paths for apprentices, particularly for workers recruited from our most historically marginalized and under-served populations."

      * * *

      To: The Honorable Amanda Lefton, Director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20240

      Dear Director Lefton:

      We write regarding the offshore wind projects off the coast of California and the need to ensure that the highest labor standards are upheld at these projects. While offshore wind is important for meeting the Biden Administration's clean energy goals, these goals cannot be reached without a strong partnership with skilled U.S. workers and the unions that represent them. Therefore, we request answers to the below questions regarding protections to ensure that every major component of these offshore wind turbines will be constructed in America with American labor and what wage protections will be in place for the project workers.

      As you know, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued the Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) for commercial leasing for wind power on the California Outer Shelf on May 26, 2022.1 This PSN would allow the development of five lease areas within the Morro Bay Wind Energy Area and the Humboldt Wind Energy Area off the shore of California for commercial wind energy. According to the PSN, the 4.5 gigawatts of total power derived from these five Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) would be enough to power 1.5 million homes.2

      The PSN includes a lease stipulation to "require Lessees to make every reasonable effort to enter into a [Project Labor Agreement] covering the construction stage of any project proposed for the Lease Areas."3 However, basic components like bolts or screws are considered items of commerce and are likely outside the scope of the agreement. We are concerned that major components, like the necessary floating foundations for the wind turbines, may be considered items of commerce and therefore not covered under these agreements. These components require skilled labor to assemble, and every effort should be made to require union labor to construct them.

      We are also in favor of strong guarantees in these agreements that would ensure that all workers receive a prevailing wage. We strongly agree with this administration's belief that anyone who works should receive a living wage, and it is essential these projects further empower the American middle-class and do not undercut wages for other projects. Beyond the requirements of the Davis-Bacon Act, there does not appear to be any reference to any prevailing wage requirements in the PSN. Every effort should be made to include provisions designed to protect workers against known issues with determining prevailing wages or to account for special considerations for calculating the prevailing wage given, for example, the projects' location off the mainland.

      Therefore, we ask that you answer the following questions no later than September 30th:

      1. How will the bureau define "every reasonable effort" in the project labor agreements?

      2. What components do you anticipate being considered an item of commerce for the projects? What criteria will you use in determining whether an item is a construction item or an item of commerce?

      3. Do you anticipate any additional protections in the lease agreements to ensure workers are paid a prevailing wage?

      4. In what manner will prevailing wages be calculated for these projects? What geographic area do you anticipate being used for the study area? Will private industry participate in the determination of prevailing wages for employees, including any subsets of employees?

      5. How do you plan to ensure that workers are properly classified for prevailing wage purposes? Will the bureau institute any additional recordkeeping requirements to ensure employers are paying workers for all hours worked?

      We fully appreciate the bureau's forward-thinking PSN, and we applaud the administration's willingness to include important provisions in the PSN designed to bolster our domestic supply chain for offshore wind projects, engage with underserved communities, and enter into Community Benefit Agreements. However, that notice must fully engage with and protect our American workers. Thank you in advance for your response to our inquiry, and please let us know if you have any questions or concerns on these issues.

      View co-signers and footnotes here: https://ruiz.house.gov/sites/ruiz.house.gov/files/California%20Delegation%20Letter%20on%20Offshore%20Wind%20Labor%20to%20BOEM_0.pdf

      * * *

      Original text here: https://ruiz.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/dr-ruiz-leads-call-fair-labor-standards-california-offshore-wind

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