Casey, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Empower Fossil Fuel Workers to Train, Find Jobs in Changing Energy Industry

Fossil Fuel WorkersImage by Markus Distelrath
American Energy Worker Opportunity Act Would Provide Training and Resources for Workers Affected by Changes in Energy Industry, Prioritize Them for New Energy Projects

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) this week introduced the American Energy Worker Opportunity Act, which would provide critical resources and training opportunities to assist and empower workers whose jobs are affected by the energy industry’s move toward renewable sources.

“Workers in our coal mines, power plants, steel mills and other emission-intensive manufacturing sites provided the electricity and materials that have powered the American economy since the Industrial Revolution. We have a responsibility to ensure that these workers and their families are not left behind,” said Senator Casey. “We also have a responsibility to confront the climate crisis, as impacts of Hurricane Ida and other natural disasters in Pennsylvania reminded us. This legislation would provide a worker-centered solution to mitigating the climate crisis while supporting the workers who have kept the lights on in this Nation for years.”

“The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) has been clear that as we continue to move through an energy transition in the United States we need to stop leaving workers, families and communities behind. For us, the principles of a true transition are to; first, preserve as many UMWA jobs as possible; second, create new well-paying union jobs in the coal-producing areas of the country; and third, create a bridge for those workers who are forced to make a transition so that they do not fall into poverty,” said United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts. “This legislation fulfills that last principle, and I thank Senators Brown, Casey, Whitehouse, Baldwin, Bennet, Duckworth, Smith and Warren for introducing it and standing up for UMWA members, their families and their communities. As Congress considers how to approach energy transition, this must be part of the solution.”

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“Our union remains deeply committed to preserving our members’ jobs throughout the energy economy. However, workers also need meaningful economic support when this is no longer possible, so that they can secure their next high-quality job or retire with dignity,” said United Steelworkers (USW) International President Tom Conway. “The American Energy Worker Opportunity Act will aid dislocated coal and oil workers and their families, providing them with educational opportunities, wage supplements, health care benefits and retirement contributions. We applaud Sens. Baldwin, Casey, Whitehouse, Bennet, Duckworth, Smith, and Warren for announcing this crucial legislation.”

“Our economy is changing, and as we make the investments needed to fight climate change, America’s working people must be at the top of the priority list. Maintaining well-paid union jobs at the same location is always the first and best choice, and we realize in some cases this will be difficult or take time,” said Fredrick D. Redmond, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO. “The American Energy Worker Opportunity Act gives workers and their families the support they need during those difficult times, and we urge Congress to pass and fully fund this legislation.”

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The bill would create a worker transition program with wage supplements, health care benefits, education and training funds, and an additional education benefit for children of laid-off workers. It would include:

  • Eligible workers: workers whose employment is terminated from a coal mine, coal-fired power plant, coal transport or oil refinery, provided that the worker was employed continuously and full time for at least 12 months prior to layoff, with authority for the Secretary to add additional groups of fossil fuel-dependent workforces as employment impacts make it necessary.
  • Wage supplement: workers will receive wage replacement or supplement in addition to assistance to maintain health benefits and contribute to retirement.
  • Worker education and training: workers will be eligible for grants for allowable education and training up to and including a four-year degree
  • Education for the children of dislocated workers: direct educational grants for the children of dislocated workers deemed eligible by the program for allowable education and training up to and including a four-year degree.
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The proposal would also prioritize employers who plan to hire eligible workers for the clean energy grants created under the Build Back Better plan. It is endorsed by the United Mine Workers of America International, United Steelworkers (USW) International, the Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, BlueGreen Alliance, National Wildlife Federation, LCV, NRDC and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Read more about the American Energy Worker Opportunity Act here.

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