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Union workers to protest at wind farm site

ELKTON – Members of three labor-union locals planned to picket today outside a wind-turbine farm being built in the Thumb.

A union official said the purpose of the picket is to draw attention to low-cost labor being used at the Harvest Wind Farm near Elkton, in Huron County. John Deere Wind Energy is the project’s developer.

”We are not trying to shut them down,” said William Borch Jr., president and up-state business agent for Iron Workers Local 25. ”Our main objective is to get John Deere to employ local tradesmen.”

The Times was unable to reach a spokesman for John Deere Wind Energy.

The company is building a $90 million, 32-turbine wind farm expected to begin generating electricity in 2008. The Harvest Wind Farm would be the first commercial-scale wind farm in Michigan.

Borch said today’s picket would include members of Iron Workers Local 25, Laborers Local 1098 and Operators Local 324. The picket was set to begin at 6 a.m. and continue for several hours.

Borch alleged Thursday that many workers at the construction site are not mid-Michigan residents and are earning much lower wages than the $20-$27 an hour paid to building trades members.

In one case, two illegal immigrants were arrested last week following a traffic stop north of Bad Axe. Both were employed by Sanderfoot Wind & Excavating Inc. of Appleton, Wis., a contractor building footings for the wind turbines.

”We want to make the public aware of what’s going on there in regards to low-price labor coming in from out of state,” Borch said.

By Eric English
Times Writer

The Bay City Times

13 July 2007