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While Michigan workers sit idled by COVID-19, out-of-state company cashes in

While Michigan workers sit idled by COVID-19, out-of-state company cashes in

MT. PLEASANT, Michigan – While thousands of Michigan skilled tradesmen and women are unemployed, honoring the state’s “Stay-At-Home” COVID-19 edict, work on a Michigan wind farm deemed essential is exploiting out-of-state workers to capitalize on profits, putting residents at risk, Operating Engineers 324 said today. The main contractor for the project is Fagen Inc., based in Minnesota, imports out-of-state workers for the Isabella County project instead of hiring highly skilled and qualified local Michigan workers.

“At a time when Michigan workers are losing their jobs, and the national economy appears to be stalling, Fagen is bringing in out-of-state, unskilled workers despite earlier pledges to hire Michigan workers,” said OE324 Business Manager Douglas Stockwell. “Michigan’s skilled trades professionals need these jobs. We can do these jobs well and safely, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which we train and prepare for to keep workers on the site and the communities we work in safe. Instead of keeping jobs local and limiting the spread of COVID-19, Fagen’s plan to ship workers from other states robs local jobs and puts local communities at risk. All we ask for is the opportunity for skilled, qualified Michigan workers to work on these good-paying Michigan projects at a time when we need these jobs.”

Stockwell said Project Developer Apex Clean Energy Inc. had asked OE324, other unions, and organizations, and local communities to support the project with pledges of local jobs and revenue for the communities involved. Now that the project is proceeding, Apex’s chosen contractor Fagen Inc. is not hiring Michigan companies and Michigan workers, Stockwell said.

The wind farm project will create dozens of much-needed construction jobs. In two weeks in March, unemployment claims sparked by layoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic skyrocketed to half-a-million new claims. In comparison, the worst week of the 2007-2009 Great Recession saw 77,000 claims.

Based in Minnesota, Fagen has a record of using out-of-state workers instead of Michiganders. An informal survey of on-site construction workers at a 2019 Fagen project in Ithaca revealed that the workers came from 32 states outside of Michigan. Out-of-state workers often lack the comprehensive worksite protections that OE324, other unions, and their Michigan contractor partners provide. Without these worksite protections, workers injured on the job could force Michigan taxpayers to pay their medical and hospital bills.

“Michigan communities are losing out on local jobs when out-of-state companies like Fagen refuse to hire local labor,” Stockwell said. “Michigan workers are among the best, most-skilled workers around, and we would be proud to work on the windfarm in Isabella County. Members of Operating Engineers 324 have built every other wind project in Michigan before this one.  Michigan communities and workers urge Fagen to reconsider its position and hire skilled, qualified labor instead.”