Longshoremen return to Vineyard Wind, say they won better jobs for city's Cape Verdean community
The longshoremen’s union in New Bedford went back to work Thursday after a six-day work stoppage that delayed the unloading of the first wind turbine tower for Vineyard Wind.
The union and Vineyard Wind came to an agreement Wednesday that will allow members of Local 1413 of the International Longshoremen’s Association to work full-time, and to operate, and receive training on, specialized heavy equipment, said local union president Kevin Rose.
“We're going to be training people to run this equipment,” he said. “So when the next project comes along, whether it be Mayflower or South Coast Wind, they can't say, ‘Well, these guys haven’t been trained on this equipment,’ or ‘They can't run this.’ … No, we're going to run this equipment.”
Members of the Longshoremen’s union had been picketing at the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal since Friday, the day after state and city officials held a press conference at the terminal to welcome the first ship for Vineyard Wind.
When the unloading of the ship UHL Felicity began, longshoremen were working part-time and weren’t getting assigned to higher-paying tasks, such as operating a crane, he said. Those jobs are being done by members of the building trades.
The longshoremen said the company was failing to live up to its promise to provide good jobs for a local and diverse workforce. The vast majority of the 36 members of Local 1413 are people of color, Rose said, and the union has a long history in New Bedford’s Cape Verdean community.
“I have obligations to my members here in New Bedford, and my Cape Verdean community, to ensure that we're not going to be left out on this big wind project, because this is life changing,” he said. “This is a wage that's going to change people's lives in our community.”
Vineyard Wind has a hiring agreement, called a project labor agreement, with the Southeastern Massachusetts Building Trades Council. It does not include the New Bedford longshoremen.
In the negotiations, the company had to avoid violating that agreement.
Vineyard Wind CEO Klaus Moeller said the company arranged with its stevedoring contractor to ensure that local workers will fill jobs on the docks.
Rose said New Bedford should continue to push offshore wind companies and their subcontractors to hire local residents.