Building Solar Farms May Not Build the Middle Class


One afternoon in mid-May, several workers at Assembly Solar coming out of their shift said they were grateful for the job, which they said paid $16 an hour and provided health insurance and 401(k) contributions. Two of them moved to the area from Memphis and two from Mississippi, where they earned $9 to $15 an hour—one as a cook, two in construction, and one as a mechanic.

Jeff Ordower, organizer of the Green Workers Alliance, a group that pushes for better conditions on such projects, said out-of-state workers often find jobs through recruiters, and some of them make unfulfilled promises of pay. many workers turned red before starting. “You can’t have the money until you get there,” said Mr Ordower. “You borrow money from friends and family just to go to the concert.”

Assembly Solar employees described their job of assembling the panels: Two workers “throw glass”, that is, shelve a panel, while the third “grabs it”, that is, puts the panel in place. Then another group of workers passes by and secures the panels to the rack.

One of the men, who identified himself as Travis Shaw, said he typically worked from 7am to 5pm, six days a week, including overtime. Another worker, Quendarious Foster, who has been on the job for two weeks, said the workers were motivated by trying to beat their daily record of 30 “audiences”, each holding several dozen panels.

“The sun is like a moving assembly line,” said Mr Prisco, head of the staffing agency. “People move instead of the product running down the line. 1,000 replicates itself over and over in an area of ​​2,000 acres.”


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