Positive Environment News

Not All "Green" Jobs Pay Well

Date: 04-Feb-09
Country: US
Author: Tom Doggett

Not All

An array of solar photovoltaic panels is seen at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada in this picture taken August 1, 2008.
Photo: Steve Marcus

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has high hopes that millions of "green" jobs will be created by investing billions of dollars in renewable energy, but a report on Tuesday warned not all those workers would earn good pay.

"Green jobs are not automatically good jobs," according to the report commissioned by several U.S. labor and environmental groups, which looked at pay practices at renewable energy companies.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington, both Democrats released the report a day before hundreds of labor, environmental and business activists were scheduled to go to Capitol Hill to lobby for good-paying green jobs.

"Our survey results suggest that wind and solar manufacturing workers earn more than the typical employee at a Wal-Mart store, but it would be a stretch to say that all of them have good jobs," the report said.

Wage rates at many wind and solar manufacturing facilities are below the national average for workers employed in the manufacture of durable goods of $18.88 an hour, and average pay rates at some locations fall short of income levels needed to support a single adult with one child.

The lowest wage found was $8.25 an hour at a recycling processing plant, while manufacturing jobs related to renewable energy pay as little as $11 an hour.

The report said renewable energy companies that receive tax breaks or subsidies should pay a "living wage" that can fund a worker's basic needs.

"Requiring that green-sector companies receiving economic development subsidies provide wages and benefits high enough to allow workers to achieve self-sufficiency standards will help realize the promise of the clean-energy revolution," the report said.

The report noted that some U.S. wind and solar manufactures have moved production of components for the U.S. market to low-wage countries like China and Mexico. Among companies that have moved green manufacturing operations offshore:

* First Solar, headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, located its largest solar module manufacturing operation in Malaysia. It is more than 10 times the size of the company's facilities in Perrysburg, Ohio.

* TPI Composites, headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, has wind-blade manufacturing operations in China and Mexico. The Chinese operation was set up to supply GE Energy, while the Mexican one is a joint venture with Mitsubishi Power Systems called VienTek.

* United Solar Ovonic, based in Rochester Hills, Michigan, has a plant in Mexico that produces laminates for the photovoltaic cells assembled at in Greenville, Michigan.

The report was commissioned by the Sierra Club, Change to Win, the Laborers International Union of North America and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

(Editing by David Gregorio)

© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

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