State Sen. Harckham at a press conference in Buchanan, NY, calling for Indian Point job protections and guarantees.

Legislation will offer job protections and guarantees for the workers at the Indian Point Energy Center

New York State Senator Pete Harckham and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef urged Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation that will offer job protections and guarantees for the workers at the Indian Point Energy Center.

Harckham and Galef made their announcement on Thursday, Dec. 19 at Buchanan Village Hall, where several other elected officials, union leaders and workers from Indian Point joined them.

“Time is running out for nearly a thousand Indian Point employees and sub-contractor employees, as well as their families—and we need Governor Cuomo to partner with us to give these people protection during the decommissioning,” said Harckham.

Entergy’s closing the Indian Point Energy Center—one nuclear energy reactor ceased operating in 1974, but the other two will be shut down in April 2020 and April 2021, respectively—means a change of ownership soon will take place, as Entergy passes the facility on to another corporation for the entire decommissioning process.

This transition raises two important issues, noted Harckham and Galef: the obvious necessity of professional maintenance of the facility during its transition and decommissioning; and the need to ensure that the present workforce is protected and included in the future dismantling of the facility.

The legislation Harckham and Galef passed in both the Senate and Assembly minimizes the negative impact to the workforce during this transition by requiring the decommissioning company to hire from the existing pool of Indian Point workers first. It also declares the energy facility to be a prevailing wage site, so employees will be paid commensurate with what they are making now.

“This bill is so important for those who work at Indian Point, their families, and those who live in this area,” said Galef. “It ensures that our neighbors will be able to retain their jobs and wages during this transition to decommissioning. I urge the Governor to support this bill and demonstrate support for organized labor, these workers, and our community, which will be significantly impacted by the closure of these plants.”

If Governor Cuomo does not sign the Indian Point workforce bill before the start of the new legislative session on January 8, then legislators will need to pass a new bill. Meanwhile, the new decommissioning entity at Indian Point can begin to make workforce changes without any protections for the existing employees.

Town of Cortlandt Supervisor Linda D. Puglisi, in a statement, said, “We are very pleased that our community has the support of Senator Pete Harckham and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef as we approach the challenges we’ll face when the two nuclear plants at Indian Point close in 2020 and 2021.”

Buchanan Mayor Theresa Knickerbocker said, “I urge the Governor to sign this legislation, which will protect the well-paying jobs of many in our community and the businesses that depend on those jobs. This is a very important first step to help us weather the coming storm.”

Both Harckham and Galef pointed out that there is a requirement for a “just transition” when power plants close in the future included in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act that Governor Cuomo signed last July, and which they supported. It is hoped that their Indian Point legislation, when passed into law, becomes a statewide template for labor protections moving forward.

Edward Doyle, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Westchester and Putnam Counties, said in a statement, “This jobs protection legislation is essential to help ensure that Indian Point continues to have a highly skilled competent work force.”

William Smith, vice president of Local 1-2, NY, Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, which represents workers at Indian Point, said, “Local 1-2 would like to thank Senator Harckham, his co-sponsor Senator Carlucci, and Assemblywoman Galef for recognizing the vital and dangerous work involved in de-commissioning Indian Point. Our union represents the professionals who are best trained to do this work. This is our business. Accepting anything less than fully-trained professionals who know Indian Point inside and out to undertake this grave phase of work would endanger the community and add further insult to an economically devasted community. This law goes a long way to addressing these economic imbalances and will ensure that professionals and not un-trained contractors undertake the work. Good jobs and good wages are in everyone’s interest. Utility workers at Indian Point truly appreciate this support.”

Other union officials present at press conference were Jennifer Puja, labor council director of the Westchester / Putnam Central Labor Body AFL-CIO; Al Libertore from Teamsters Local 456; plus Craig Dickson, Joe Caradona and Vincent Kyne, Sr. from Local 1-2, NY, Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO. Other elected officials present were Westchester legislators Catherine Borgia and John Testa, along with legislator-elect Colin Smith. Deborah Milone, president of the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce also attended.

By Tom Staudter