AOC Wants Solar Company that Fired Employees that Unionized to Hire Them Back

Common dreams reports that 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.”

AOC was responding to a vice story of a solar company that fired employees inspired by AOC’s Green New Deal.

From Vice

In late April, a group of New York City construction workers, inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s vision for a Green New Deal, voted to form one of the first unions in the solar energy industry. On Monday, their employer Bright Power fired its entire in-house construction crew and announced that those workers, in the midst of negotiations for their first contract, would be replaced with subcontractors.

“We have come to the conclusion that our resources have been spread too thin with so many different kinds of work all being done in-house,” Bright Power CEO Jeffrey Perlman wrote to the company in an email reviewed by Motherboard. “It makes business sense to return to a fully subcontracted solar installation model.”

Bright Power had been working with a full-time solar installation team for four years (prior to that, it relied solely on subcontractors). That team believes they were fired for unionizing. Their union drive was originally covered in Dissent‘s Belabored podcast.

“This is obviously retaliation for union organizing,” Chris Schroth, one of the fired solar installers 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.”

Despite the renewable energy industry’s reputation as a progressive alternative to extractive industries, the same cannot be said for how many green energy companies treat their workers.

Bright Power’s decision to fire 12 of its workers happened during a period of growth at the company, which installs solar panels and other energy improvements on low-income housing developments in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn, including the 1,395 unit Ocean Bay Apartments in Far Rockaway, New York, which suffered severe damages after Hurricane Sandy. This year, Inc. magazine ranked Bright Power one of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the United States, and last year, Crain’s New York Business placed its CEO on its 40 Under 40 list. On its website, Bright Power says its mission is to “maximiz[e] returns for the real estate industry and the planet.”

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