Budzinski Leads Letter Urging Department of Energy to Prioritize Grants for Pro-Union Projects 

Jul 11, 2023
Economy
Labor
Press

WASHINGTON — Today, the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC) Climate Jobs Task Force Co-Chairs — Representatives Nikki Budzinski (IL-13), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) and Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10) — led a letter with four other task force members urging U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to prioritize federal grant funding for projects that create and sustain union jobs.

“Right now, companies like US Steel are trying to take advantage of federal grants in states with weak labor standards as they consider cutting good paying jobs in places like Granite City,” said Congresswoman Budzinski. “We need to make sure that our agencies are prioritizing projects that will create and sustain good-paying union jobs in our communities. That’s why I’m proud to lead members of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition’s Climate Jobs Task Force in a letter urging the Department of Energy to heavily consider the labor implications of proposed projects as grant funding is allocated.” 

Last month, Congresswoman Budzinski advocated for Granite City steelworkers during the Congressional Steel Caucus’ annual “State of Steel” meeting — questioning Richard Fruehauf, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy & Sustainability Officer at U.S. Steel Corporation, about the company’s proposed plan to sell Granite City Steel to SunCoke Energy which would result in the loss of 1,000 union jobs. During her questioning, Budzinski urged the company to do what’s right for workers and continue investing in the Granite City site.

In the letter, the Members expressed their concern that Department of Energy funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act could be used by companies relocating their facilities and jobs to states without strong protections for workers’ collective bargaining rights. They urge the Department of Energy to apply the Department of Labor’s “Good Jobs Principles” and heavily consider applications’ plans to engage with labor and the community.

“As companies begin to put together proposals for DOE to consider, we share a concern that corporations applying for grants will attempt to move manufacturing capacity to “Right to Work” states to decrease labor costs and minimize workers’ ability to collectively bargain, while also pursuing funding opportunities from the United States government. These types of actions undermine the economic goals of passing these monumental infrastructure and energy bills, as their purpose is to lift up communities across the country who should benefit from quality jobs,” wrote the Members.

“If an applicant is purposefully moving locations and subsequently accountability to workers, this should be factored into funding coming out of DOE programs. Therefore, we request that DOE adopt a discerning approach when considering applications from companies that locate or relocate their manufacturing facilities in states with fewer protections for workers’ rights to collectively bargain and earn a fair wage.”

In addition to the Climate Jobs Task Force Co-Chairs, the letter was also signed by Representatives Paul Tonko (NY-20), Chris Deluzio (PA-17), Seth Magaziner (RI-02) and Debbie Dingell (MI-06). 

Full text of the letter can be found here and below: 

July 11, 2023

We write to congratulate you on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) proactive implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). These laws will retain and create family sustaining union jobs that will give all workers in the United States the opportunity to enter the middle-class, while simultaneously preventing the worst impacts of climate change and lowering energy costs for consumers. As implementation continues, it is crucial that the “Good Jobs Principles” developed and published by the Departments of Labor and Commerce are consistently applied across agencies and programs, including DOE. DOE has required funding applicants to describe how they will meaningfully engage with the community and labor as part of a Community Benefits Plan (CBP). As such, we ask that these responses are heavily weighted when making funding determinations, as investments in job quality and benefits to disadvantaged workers and communities need to be prioritized.

As companies begin to put together proposals for DOE to consider, we share a concern that corporations applying for grants will attempt to move manufacturing capacity to “Right to Work” states to decrease labor costs and minimize workers’ ability to collectively bargain, while also pursuing funding opportunities from the United States government. These types of actions undermine the economic goals of passing these monumental infrastructure and energy bills, as their purpose is to lift up communities across the country who should benefit from quality jobs. If an applicant is purposefully moving locations and subsequently accountability to workers, this should be factored into funding coming out of DOE programs. Therefore, we request that DOE adopt a discerning approach when considering applications from companies that locate or relocate their manufacturing facilities in states with fewer protections for workers’ rights to collectively bargain and earn a fair wage.

Ultimately, the Good Jobs Principles should be applied consistently to maximize benefits to workers and communities. The Good Jobs Principles should be leveraged to invest in America’s workforce by supporting and creating good-paying union jobs; developing a local, skilled, diverse, inclusive, and safe high-road workforce; advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility; and supporting meaningful community and labor engagement. This may include requiring applicants to use Project Labor Agreements, supporting and protecting Workers’ Right to Organize and Collectively Bargain, committing to not spending money on opposing union organizing, and requiring or incentivizing the use of union- affiliated or labor-manage training programs. Therefore, we request that DOE work with the Departments of Labor and Commerce to promote consistent application and consideration of the Good Jobs Principles in the application process for entities seeking funding. We also urge DOE to work closely with the Department of Labor to prioritize worker protections when making funding determinations.

Both BIL and IRA represent landmark policy victories that set the stage for major economic transformation if implemented correctly. To achieve the Biden Administration’s goal of bringing the benefits of these investments to workers and communities, we ask DOE to fully apply these Good Jobs Principles, adopt a discerning approach with applicants who newly moved facilities to Right to Work states, and work across federal agencies to make worker protections and good-paying jobs priorities in the implementation of historic investments in domestic manufacturing.

Sincerely,

###

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