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Solar Alliance Southeast Workers Vote to Form Union with CWA

Workers at Solar Alliance Southeast vote to form one-of-a-kind, wall-to-wall style union to improve working conditions and raise standards for workers on the frontline of building a clean energy-driven economy.

The union victory follows unprecedented growth and increased federal investment in the solar industry.

Knoxville, Tenn. — In a major victory, a majority of employees at Solar Alliance Southeast voted for union representation with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in an official National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election held today. With a union and a voice on the job, the workers are preparing to bargain for a fair contract that will ensure workers receive fair compensation and adequate benefits that reflect their value, provide a path for career growth and development, and prioritize workers’ safety and well being. In addition, the workers are fighting for a more organized and efficient workplace structure that promotes accountability and transparency and allows workers to have a meaningful voice in the decision-making process.

“In a society that has seen decades of the degradation of the middle class, union movements such as ours are of paramount importance,” said Tyler Mucklow, a Commercial Construction Foreman and a member of the organizing committee. “Every worker in every sector of this economy is thus necessitated to act in solidarity with their blue-collar brothers and sisters if democracy is to prevail over oligarchy. I cannot overstate how proud I am of our union! Furthermore, I am eternally grateful to those who have assisted us in winning a democratic voice in our workplace. I look forward to working in conjunction with Solar Alliance Southeast management in order to secure a brighter future for the families of my coworkers and myself!”

Founded in 2011, Solar Alliance Southeast (SASE) is a leading energy company focused on delivering clean and renewable energy solutions. The workers, who are based in Knoxville, Tenn., are involved in the engineering, procurement, construction, and sales of solar projects on every scale, from residential to commercial and utility-scale installations.

The U.S. solar industry is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country. Between 2014 and 2019, solar employment increased 44 percent, five times faster than job growth in the overall U.S. economy. In 2022 alone, SASE’s revenue grew 31 percent to $4,825,984 from $3,666,383 the previous year. Most recently, the Biden Administration’s commitment to advancing environmental justice through federal policy, including its major legislative victories such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which include incentives for increased investment and the application of renewable energy sources, has unleashed an even bigger boost in the solar industry. The Biden Administration’s climate agenda also prioritizes the creation of high-quality, good-paying union jobs and building worker power by expanding the right to organize and promoting high-road labor standards for workers in new and fast-growing clean energy industries.

Despite playing a critical role in ensuring the demands of this rapidly expanding industry are met, workers at SASE and across the solar industry are currently faced with immense challenges. SASE workers receive low and inconsistent pay that is grossly under the industry standard and does not match the workers’ level of expertise and skills. In addition, the workers are constantly overworked without additional compensation, lack job security and safety, as well as adequate resources and support.

“I am thrilled to celebrate our union win today,” said Colleen McWilliams, Operations Coordinator. “This achievement marks a significant milestone in our pursuit of a democratic voice within our workplace. I want to express my sincere gratitude to each and every one of my fellow colleagues who dedicated their valuable time and unwavering effort in this process. We are confident that this union win will pave the way for a brighter and more equitable future for Solar Alliance Southeast and its entire workforce. Our victory is a testament to our shared vision and the power of solidarity.”

Solar Workers United (CWA Local 3805) is a one-of-a-kind, wall-to-wall style union that is inclusive of engineers, installers, members of the design and project team, and administrative employees at SASE. Unfortunately, following the workers’ request for recognition, the company chose to challenge the inclusion of certain employees in the unit. This is a clear effort to undermine the power and solidarity the workers have built. SASE should demonstrate its commitment to prioritizing the workers on the frontline of building a clean, energy-driven economy by respecting their right to form a union and bargain a fair contract. The workers are also fighting to ensure the communities, who are increasingly shifting to solar energy, receive quality and dependable service.

“Hard work, perseverance, and continued support from every person in this union has won Solar Workers United-CWA this unionization vote,” said Jake Plewa, a Project Engineer. “That same hard work, perseverance, and continued support is vital as we move into the negotiation stage for us to win a contract that will support us and allow us to flourish. I look forward to all of us using our democratic voice in the workplace to improve Solar Alliance for everyone. I am thankful for the support from my fellow workers and the community that has helped us achieve this victory with CWA.”

SASE workers’ organizing effort is the latest in the green labor movement and follows successful organizing efforts by workers across the environmental sector, including those at the Center for Biological Diversity, Sunrise Movement, the Sierra Club,, and Greenpeace. They add to the growing number of conservationists and climate activists paving the way for a stronger alliance between labor and environmentalism and add to the momentum of union organizing and worker power nationwide.


About CWA: The Communications Workers of America represents working people in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, manufacturing, tech, and other fields. @cwaunion

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