Texas Democrats, unions call on Interior to protect workers’ rights in offshore wind leasing

A coalition of Texas unions and members of Congress are calling on the Biden administration to ensure workers’ rights are protected in the buildout of offshore wind infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico. 

In a letter sent out Thursday morning, Democratic Reps. Al Green, Lloyd Doggett, Sylvia Garcia, Marc Veasey, Veronica Escobar and Vicente Gonzalez, who all represent districts in Texas, called on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to ensure that Gulf-based wind power projects are built by union labor.

The representatives noted that due to organizing obstacles at the state level, union membership among workers is about one-third the national rate in Texas.  

In the letter, the members called on BOEM to ensure that leasing terms for wind projects in the Gulf include a requirement for a project labor agreement (PLA), or a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement between construction unions and contractors. 

The members also called for the use of a community workforce agreement, a PLA with a goal of hiring low-income workers for construction projects. 

The letter follows a public comment submitted in February by the Texas Climate Jobs Project, a coalition of labor unions in the Lone Star State that aims to bridge the gap between addressing climate change and the needs of workers. The group cites what it says is endemic wage theft in the construction business in Texas, and called on BOEM to incorporate local working conditions into its environmental analysis. 

“What we’re asking for is when they do issue those leases, that that those leases have requirements in there for job quality, for the ability of workers to come together … and community benefits so that even as we build this renewable capacity, we’re making sure that working people, and people who have historically been disadvantaged by the way energy has been produced in Texas, have a real seat at the table,” Rick Levy, president of the Texas AFL-CIO, said in an interview with The Hill Wednesday. 

Levy described offshore wind as the ideal project to assuage what he said was unease among parts of organized labor about renewable energy’s effect on jobs. 

“The reason we got involved in this project was to make sure that number one, it happens, and number two, when it does happen, that we make sure that these are good jobs and that people have a voice in these jobs and that the jobs really benefit the whole community,” he said. 

The Biden administration has set a broader goal of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity deployed by 2030, but has yet to formally announce lease sales in the Gulf. Last June, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced the department would explore opportunities for renewable development in the area.