OpEd: Union Trades Have What It Takes to Build a New Offshore Wind Industry

Year In Review
Power-generating windmill turbines are seen at the Eneco Luchterduinen offshore wind farm near Amsterdam, Netherlands September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Finding a well-paying union job and making a career out of it seems to be harder and harder to do today. But with the recent pledges in New York to build 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035, including a commitment to hire local workers and buy parts made in New York, the future is bright. As the general foreman at the infrastructure construction company Haugland Group, I am working on onshore construction for South Fork Wind, New York’s first offshore wind farm. 

Ørsted and Eversource have teamed up to build South Fork Wind with local workers from beginning to end. And they have made hiring union workers and buying local components part of their business plan. Combining job opportunities in New York and on Long Island with building a new clean energy industry is important for me, my family, and our community on Long Island. 

I can’t say I was thinking about any of that 30 years ago. When high school was over, I told my parents I was thinking about taking a year off, taking some time to myself. The following Monday, my stepfather, a lifelong union man, said to me in so many words: “Get up, get your boots on, you’re coming to work.” With that, I was standing on a bridge first thing in the morning, cursing under my breath.

I did not imagine, after joining the union in 1994, that I would be here today as a leader, married with two kids, owning my own boat, and making a difference every day I show up at the worksite. I hope to share my story with others, including those at the National Offshore Wind Training Center in Brentwood, because I believe a career in this industry will lead to even more opportunities for the next generation. 

At Haugland, we’re building South Fork Wind’s onshore substation, and the 4 1/2-mile trench and cable ducts to reach it from the shore. The substation’s where the electricity from the offshore wind turbines is converted from direct current to alternating current so it’s ready to go into the grid for people to use.

As union workers, we do the job efficiently and safely, all while being able to provide for our families and give more back to our communities and local economies. It’s what my stepfather did for me and my siblings when he married my mom and took in three kids, always bringing home a paycheck and putting food on the table. The big difference today is that what I’m working on is renewable energy infrastructure, helping us give electricity to the state and the country in a better way.

This project is something my kids are going to benefit from, and hopefully something they can be proud of. I want my kids to reach for the stars, to get it all. And I want them to do it while appreciating and understanding what it took to build them a better future.

Matt Laub is the general foreman for Haugland Group.

Find out more about Matt Laub’s story here.

Related Story: Building New York’s Offshore Wind Supply Chain