New law could strengthen union presence at Maine renewable energy projects

As Maine continues to increase investment in renewable energy infrastructure, unions are winning political victories aimed at strengthening the presence of unionized workers in the green economy.

This week, Governor Janet Mills allowed a new law to come into effect without her signature that will require developers to pay prevailing wages to workers at commercial, medium- and large-scale renewable energy projects. And it will also allow regulators to give extra weight to bids for large public renewable energy projects that include agreements with unions or employee-owned contractors.

“Maine is becoming a national leader by making sure we fight climate change and inequality together and by ensuring we have a worker-centered climate action plan,” said Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the AFL-CIO.

The measure has faced opposition from business groups, with solar power advocates saying it would set back recent progress in tackling climate change with new clean sources of electricity. The new law will come into effect for projects proposed from January 2023.

Schlobohm adds that last year lawmakers passed a law requiring the inclusion of union workers in the construction of a taxpayer-funded wind farm off the coast of Maine, and another law requiring that an investment $20 million in affordable climate-resilient housing do the same.