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Ahead of the panel: Solar Holler installers, electricians to unionize

By Staff | Jun 12, 2020

Solar Holler's employees install solar panels throughout the region. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — On June 2, Solar Holler announced that it has decided to work together with the the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to unionize its solar panel installers and electricians.

The business’ employees have all decided to join the union’s regional chapter, IBEW Local Union 317.

“Partnering with the IBEW is a continuation of the mission we’ve been on for the past seven yearsto create family-sustaining jobs in a world-changing industry,” said Solar Holler Founder and CEO Dan Conant. “We believe that healthcare is a human right, that the people wearing boots are the ones that bring our systems to life, and that our company has a responsibility to honor and care for those that make the magic happen.”

According to Conant, Solar Holler is joining a growing number of solar companies being unionized. At the time of its joining, only four percent of IBEW’s membership was solar-related.

“We know of two other solar companies east of the Mississippi that are affiliated with the IBEW — one in Indiana and one in Vermont,” said Marketing Associate Robyn Schneiderman, mentioning the idea to unionize came from Solar Holler’s leaders. “Solar Holler’s executive leadership initiated the collaboration with IBEW and our CEO advocated for it.”

This decision will help protect Solar Holler employees’ best interests, similar to Solar Holler’s previous proactive decision to provide employee “benefits that cover 100 percent of health care premiums for the whole family, and pension contributions.”

“For too long, health care and benefits have been tied to individual employers,” Schneiderman said. “Our membership with IBEW will allow our colleagues to have portability of benefits as they progress through their career. The union provides a safety net that is bigger than the solar industry itself.

“Solar Holler has never shied away from doing what’s rare or unusual we made history of our own as the first West Virginia solar company to become a benefit corporation, which legally commits us to putting our team members, the planet and communities around Appalachia on an equal footing with profits,” Schneiderman said. “That commitment has come through at every step of our journey from our earliest projects helping faith communities and nonprofits go solar, to paying for college degrees and opportunities for young people from coal communities.

“Collaborating with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is a natural extension of our mission to create family-sustaining jobs in a world-changing industry,” Schneiderman said. “We’re always looking for creative solutions that make solar the most affordable option for folks throughout West Virginia and, while we may be in the minority among solar installers, we’re happy to be on the cutting edge of new approaches that benefit West Virginia industry and West Virginia workers.”