Carpenters Trade Union Bets Big On America’s Transition To Renewable Energy

Chris D’Angelo

SICKLERVILLE, N.J. — On an overcast day last week, a union carpenter welded steel plates together at the bottom of a man-made lake as interested onlookers gathered around a laptop on a floating barge above to watch a live-feed video of his work.

For years, the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters recruited commercial divers from Divers Academy International, a dive school outside Philadelphia. But in February, the union purchased the property as part of a broader effort to get out ahead of what many anticipate — and hope — will soon be a booming offshore wind industry along the East Coast.

It is the first union-owned and operated commercial dive school in the nation.

“What do they say, ‘Build it and they will come?’ Well, we bought it, so bring them on,” William Sproule, executive secretary-treasurer of EASRCC, told a room full of union piledrivers, millwrights and carpenters during a tour of the facility.

Donnie Gibbons, a commercial diver and member of Piledrivers and Divers Local 474, enters the water at Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters' newly acquired dive school in Sicklerville, New Jersey
Donnie Gibbons, a commercial diver and member of Piledrivers and Divers Local 474, enters the water at Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters' newly acquired dive school in Sicklerville, New Jersey. The complex and adjacent lake, a former quarry, is the first union-owned commercial dive school in the nation.

President Joe Biden set a goal of securing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, enough to power 10 million homes for a year and cut 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. And he and his administration talk often about how deploying clean energy and confronting global climate change is an opportunity to create millions of high-paying union jobs.

Erecting wind farms at sea requires a lot of underwater work, including welding and inspections. As soon as this summer, the union will be able to provide its members with in-house training in underwater welding and other specialized skills required in the construction and maintenance of offshore wind turbines, oil rigs, bridges, dams, nuclear power plants and shipyards.

EASRCC purchased the dive school for $1.9 million after the school’s previous owner landed in legal and financial trouble, and has so far invested another $500,000 in repairing and upgrading equipment at the facility. The school features classrooms, offices, a dock with dive and underwater welding stations and a decompression chamber. The facility is in the process of being certified by the Association of Diving Contractors International.

Read the full article, Carpenters Trade Union Bets Big on America’s Transition to Renewable Energy, on HUFFPOST.

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