After learning that the solar energy company Bright Power fired a dozen construction workers who were inspired to unionize by the transformative vision of a Green New Deal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday demanded that the corporation immediately rehire the terminated employees and formally recognize their union contract.
“Many have told me they think the pro-justice and worker provisions in the Green New Deal are ‘unnecessary,'” Ocasio-Cortez, the lead sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution in the House, tweeted Friday. “Yet this example is why a just transition is vital. Without it, oil barons turn into energy barons, and workers are hurt all the same. Bright Power must be held accountable.”
“The total hypocrisy of their progressive mission as a green energy company is disgusting. They did everything that a big bad union busting company does. This is exactly what a coal company or any other evil company does.”
—Chris Schroth, fired Bright Power worker
As Motherboard reported Thursday, the New York City construction workers voted in April to form one of the first unions in the burgeoning solar energy industry.
“Workers decided to unionize following a couple work accidents and pressure from management to work outside in extreme weather conditions in the winter,” according to Motherboard. “When workers announced their intention to unionize, Bright Power hired Littler Mendelson—the world’s largest labor law firm representing management with ties to the Trump administration—to handle its union negotiations.”
On Monday, in the middle of negotiations for the first union contract, Bright Power announced its decision to fire the 12 workers—who made up the company’s entire in-house construction crew—and replace them with subcontractors.
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Bright Power denied that the firing had anything to do with the unionization effort, but one of the fired workers dismissed the company’s claim.
“This is obviously retaliation for union organizing,” Chris Schroth, a solar installer from Bright Power, told Motherboard. “The total hypocrisy of their progressive mission as a green energy company is disgusting. They did everything that a big bad union busting company does. This is exactly what a coal company or any other evil company does.”
“This was some visionary stuff. This was the Green New Deal,” Schroth said of the unionization push. “The people who talk about green jobs aren’t actually in the field. They’re not going to fall off a building and lose their life. But we are. The union wasn’t about Bright Power giving us anything. It was about them respecting the voice of their workers.”
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