Building solar farms can’t build the middle class

One afternoon in mid-May, several workers coming off their shifts at Assembly Solar said they were grateful for the work, which they said paid $ 16 an hour and provided health insurance. and 401 (k) contributions. Two said they moved to the Memphis area and two to the Mississippi, where they made $ 9 to $ 15 an hour – one as a cook, two in construction and one as a mechanic.

Jeff Ordower, an organizer for the Green Workers Alliance, a group that advocates for better conditions for such projects, said out-of-state workers often found jobs through recruiters, some of whom were make pay promises that don’t materialize, and many workers found themselves in the red before they started. “You don’t get money until you get there,” Mr Ordower said. “You borrow money from your friends and family just to go to the concert. “

The Assembly Solar workers described their work installing panels: Two workers “throw glass”, which means they lift a panel onto the rack, while a third “grabs” it, which means he or she guides the panel into place. Another group of workers then walk by and secure the panels to the rack.

One of the men, who identified himself as Travis Shaw, said he typically worked 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. six days a week, including overtime. Another worker, Quendarious Foster, who had been working for two weeks, said the workers motivated themselves by trying to beat their daily record, which stood at 30 “trackers”, each holding several dozen signs.

“Solar is like a moving assembly line,” said Mr. Prisco, the head of the recruiting agency. “Instead of the product moving on the line, people are moving. It spawns over and over again on 1,000, 2,000 acres. “

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