Last month, President Joe Biden worked with Congressional leaders to approve a historic measure aimed at curbing inflation. The ‘Inflation Reduction Act of 2022’ (IRA), as the legislation is titled, marks a milestone achievement for President Biden and a massive win for working families in California. With historic investments in renewable and clean energy technologies, coupled with a commitment to skilled and trained craft workers, the IRA could dramatically jumpstart the development of energy projects up and down the state.
During a recent visit with Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington, D.C., I explained how bullish I was that the IRA could be a game-changer towards our efforts to build renewable projects in California. She was particularly proud that the legislation incentivizes the payment of prevailing wages and the use of registered apprentices by increasing tax credits for companies that do so, a sentiment that we share. This opens significant opportunities for our contractor partners around the state to expand their presence in the construction of energy efficient homes, buildings, and related infrastructure, creating significant job opportunities for our current and future members.
The IRA also focuses on the domestic production of components needed for clean energy technologies like wind, hydrogen, commercial-scale solar, and carbon capture. This is especially exciting in the wind industry, as California is entering a crucial stage in the deployment of off-shore wind energy. Under the IRA, substantial incentives will be available for wind developers to manufacture components in California ports, examples of which could include steel towers, blades, or floating platforms to name a few. Our goal at the State Building Trades has always been to leverage off-shore wind generation potential into good-paying union jobs in the construction of these assets AND the manufacturing of components needed to deploy them. The Newsom Administration has fought for the same, and President Biden is helping us all deliver on those ambitions.
The IRA similarly takes a practical approach as it relates to bridge technologies like biofuels, hydrogen, and carbon capture. The Biden Administration has long touted the benefits of these technologies, as have we here in California. Now, thanks to the framework of the IRA, we may see substantial investment in these technologies in California. Instead of laying regulatory roadblocks at the base of these technologies like we’ve seen from California politicians, the IRA embraces them, offering substantial extensions for incentives in these industries. As we transition to a cleaner, more renewable energy portfolio in California, these technologies can keep manufacturing alive, transportation functioning, and agriculture producing in the short-term, important priorities if we are to keep our budget in the black.
While naysayers have been quick to label this a ‘tax increase’ for the working class, the truth is that the IRA will not raise taxes on families making less than $400,000 per year. What the IRA does do is go after those wealthy and large corporations that have made dodging tax obligations an art form. The largest ones, who often pay little to no federal taxes, will see a flat 15% corporate tax thanks to the IRA. As President Biden has consistently said, these measures are an “important component of building an economy that rewards work rather than wealth.” As we all know, our members embody that spirit every day, from San Diego to Redding, and from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe.
I’d be remiss not to acknowledge that in addition to President Biden, many labor allies in Washington, D.C. played a part in ushering this landmark legislation to the finish line, including some familiar faces to those of us in California. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Harris, two of California’s own, unsurprisingly played a role. As my good friend Rudy Gonzalez, Secretary-Treasurer of the San Francisco Building Trades, likes to say, these two are no strangers to ‘bringing home the Davis-Bacon’ (a reference to federal prevailing wages) for workers. Bring home the Davis-Bacon they did.
Above all else, the IRA presents a tremendous opportunity for the State Building Trades and our nearly half-million members in California. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs that will potentially be made available in the Golden State thanks to President Biden’s bold action. To deliver our end of the bargain, we must work tirelessly to organize new members, engage new contractors, train a diverse and inclusive workforce in our apprenticeship programs, and continue to build projects ‘on time and under budget’ like we have done for generations. President Biden is the most pro-labor President in most of our lifetimes … let’s show the rest of America why he put his faith in the Building Trades!