IBEW chief on-board for Dems’ ‘Green New Deal’

Lou Antonellis and colleagues always think “green on the job.” Photo courtesy IBEW

A resolution for a “Green New Deal,” met with enthusiasm from some high-profile Democrats and skepticism from other quarters, is being embraced wholeheartedly by a local Dorchester union that has charted a progressive political course over the past few years.

Lou Antonellis, business manager for IBEW Local 103, said the push for expanded renewable energy infrastructure and the jobs that could come with it is in line with their mission, even as fellow labor unions worry about the impact of the deliberately vague language.

“We’ve been championing this stuff for a long time,” Antonellis said on The Horse Race podcast. “We’re glad to see it finally resonate in the Legislature.”

The resolution, announced in early February by Ed Markey (D-MA) and US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), is a sweeping mission statement for climate resiliency policy. It highlights a dire November 2018 report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which asserts that about a dozen years remain to make dramatic changes in climate policy, to keep the global temperature below a level that would lead to the worst impacts of a warming planet, including wildfires, floods, frequent extreme weather events, and, in some regions, uninhabitable heat.

Climate justice, the Green New Deal posits, is integrally linked to issues of economic and social equity. It cites declines in life expectancy and access to quality of life necessities as related crises, along with economic barriers including wage stagnation and low economic mobility.

Markey and Ocasio-Cortez, along with some 70 signatories across both chambers of Congress, call for a 10-year plan including economic investments on the scale of the Depression-era New Deal.

Several components of the plan, which is spare in specifics, addresses the energy infrastructure of the country. The United States should be 100 percent powered by renewable and zero-emission energy, according to the document.

This would be achieved in part by “repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States,” and “by dramatically expanding and upgrading existing renewable power sources.”

While Local 103 workers are “going to work on solar panel jobs, putting up wind farms, working on the crumbling infrastructure,” Antonellis said, it is still a gradual evolution. “The move is, it’s going glacially,” he said. “It’s moving slow and we’re hoping this helps it along.”

Some labor unions say they are skeptical of the push, fearful about potential impacts on their workforce and saying they will not be on board without more specific language.

But for Antonellis, the resolution is in line with the work his union has already been preparing for.

“I know some of my counterparts and other unions have concerns about the Green New Deal, and they have positions that are not our position,” he said. “So, we think it’s about time. We are all about green jobs. We’ve been promoting green technology for a long time. If you come down to our and our Dorchester offices, you’ll see a lot of green technology: from a giant windmill that sits alongside the expressway… We’re putting up, on our main headquarters, 500 solar panels, 197 kilowatts this spring. We already have a hundred kilowatts of solar on our apprenticeship school that’s across the parking lot.”

Even their parking lot lights are off the grid, he said, running purely on wind and solar energy and illuminated by motion-detector to save power.
Something cool is coming down the line as well, Antonellis said: ice energy.

“We’re going to be the first one in the country to do an Ice Bear energy storage system at Local 103,” he said, in a partnership with Eversource to cool their facility more efficiently and cheaply.

A Green New Deal backer and one of the cohort of new progressive voices in Congress, new US Rep. Ayanna Pressley, was Local 103’s pick for the post in another break from the majority of Boston area unions.

To listen to Antonellis discuss the union’s other political action of late on the full episode of The Horse Race, which is co-hosted by Reporter News Editor Jennifer Smith, as well as prior podcasts, visit soundcloud.com/user-72751714 or subscribe on iTunes.