Mid-Michigan union protests for local workforce for Isabella County wind farm construction

ROSEBUSH (WJRT) (2/10/2020) - The Laborers' International Union of North America (LiUNA), Local 1098 took to the picket line in Rosebush Monday to protest who is working on construction of a wind farm in Isabella County.

The wind farm, called Isabella Wind, is the largest renewable energy project ever created in Michigan, according to its developer, Apex Clean Energy, Inc.

Chris Taylor, the marketing representative for the union chapter, said that Apex Clean Energy is not living up to their end of a deal.

"When we talked to Apex, they made more-or-less the statement that we'd be building these farms with them and now they reneged on that promise," he said.

Taylor said that before construction began, union members helped support the creation of the wind farm and that they were told that local union members would help construct the farm.

"We came out and we spoke on behalf of the wind farm," Taylor said. "Told them it was going to be a good thing, employ local people and they agreed with us. And said they were going to hire local union guys to this project."

Taylor said Apex Clean Energy hired an out-of-state contractor to do the work and that local workers are not being used to help construct the farm.

ABC12 reached out to Apex Clean Energy for comment about this story. They said that Fagen Inc., based out of Minnesota, was chosen to be the main contractor for this project but that they have been hiring local companies to help with the work.

According to a statement Apex Clean Energy sent to ABC12, five Michigan companies are working on the construction of the wind farm.

Albert Jongewaard, the development manager for the Isabella County project, said that more than 60 percent of the people working on the project are from Michigan. He said these include members of LiUNA and several other labor unions.

As for the protesters, Taylor said they are out of work because they are not working on this project and that these local workers should be the ones working on the project.

"Better half of this picket line is from within 15 minutes of this town," he said. "These are the guys that support this local community every day of their life so it would be nice if they were working so they can help support the community even better."

Apex Clean Energy estimates that the wind farm will generate more than $600 million in direct investment and more than $30 million in local tax revenues over the next 30 years.

The number of people working to build the wind farm will increase to more than 200 workers by mid-Summer.

Taylor said he hopes these protests will bring Apex Clean Energy to the table to help find a solution to this problem.