WASHINGTON (Reuters) - 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, which looked at pay practices at renewable energy companies.
The report was released by Democrats Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington 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.
For example, the lowest wage found was $8.25 an hour at a recycling processing plant, while jobs in manufacturing facilities that serve the renewable energy sector pay as little as $11 an hour.
To avoid paying high wages, some U.S. wind and solar manufactures have begun moving their production of components that are destined for the American market to low-wage countries like China and Mexico.
The report cited several green manufacturing companies that that have moved some operations offshore:
* First Solar, headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, located its largest solar module manufacturing operation in Malaysia. It is more than ten 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 that are assembled at the company’s plant in Greenville, Michigan.
To improve job quality standards, the report recommends renewable energy companies that receive tax breaks or other subsidies to pay a so-called “living wage” to ensure that workers are paid enough to meet 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.
Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by Marguerita Choy
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