A group of protesters organized by the Laborers’ District Council of Ohio used sky-high inflatable props of a rat and a fat cat near Wednesday the intersection of S.R. 138 and New Market Road near Buford to bring attention to issues faced by workers at a nearby solar farm project underway by California-based SOLV Energy company.
“We’re out here just to get fair wages for these solar workers,” said Laborers’ District Council of Ohio Marketing Director Randy McGuire. “It’s not a union, non-union thing, but it’s unfair that they’re paying these workers $20 an hour and their temp agency another $20 on top of that when they could be paying them a fair wage.”
McGuire said the workers will be out of a job once the project is completed. “When they’re done with these people – and they don’t treat them fairly either – but when they’re done with them they’ll just send them on their way, and they don’t have a job,” he said. “Now, if this was prevailing wage, they would be getting paid $37 an hour plus health care and retirement.”
In addition to the work being done near Buford, SOLV Energy is working on a larger solar project in London, Ohio.
McGuire said tax incentives that benefit SOLV Energy require 80 percent of the employees hired to complete the local project to be Ohio residents. “They are bringing in people from outside, and they’re putting down that their home address is whatever hotel they are staying at, and they are cheating the Ohio government out of that tax break,” he said.
McGuire said he fears for the future of the workers after the project is complete. “They are all temporary workers being paid $20 an hour with no benefits, no health care, and no retirement, and when the job is over they just say, ‘We’re done, see ya,’ and take off,” he said. “With us, if they do become union — if we come in and actually make them union companies when this job is over — we send them to another job.”
According to McGuire, there are about 20 solar sites currently being built in Ohio, another 18 that are approved, and another 22 that a pending approval. “So, there is a lot of solar work coming to Ohio right now, and there’s a lot of people coming to Ohio taking advantage of Ohio workers and bringing people from other states and saying that they are Ohio workers just to meet that 80 percent,” he said.
McGuire said he doesn’t believe most local government officials are aware of the out-of-state workers being brought in to fill the jobs.
“We just want these people to make a living wage, and then if they get the living wage then we’ll take the next step and try to unionize them, but our first step is to take care of Ohio workers whether it’s union or non-union,” said McGuire. “We do a lot for non-union companies just to help the worker, not the companies, but we do a lot for the worker to show them what we are about because it’s family, friends and neighbors; it’s fellow Ohioans, and that’s all we’re worried about.”
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.