What Should Salem Ask for in a Community Benefits Agreement with New Wind Developers? 

Affordable childcare would diversify applicant pool for training and jobs

by Carol Hautau

When a large new employer comes to town, communities often negotiate a “community benefits agreement,” or CBA. Footprint agreed to a CBA when it built the gas-fired power plant, and the city has benefited with investments in sustainability, education, and workforce development. Many of Salem’s residents have been thrilled with the beautiful landscaping and the new walking/bike path around the plant as well.

“Adding a provision for daycare into a CBA would help to make economic opportunity more equitable across our community.” 

News from New York State has inspired SAFE to think bigger as we consider what we might like to see in a CBA with the wind power companies coming to town. In a bid to provide offshore wind to NY, Community Offshore Wind – a collaboration of National Grid and RWE (a German-based International energy company) – has promised the community $10 million in childcare services for OSW trainees and workers. The fund would be administered by United Way. 

Across the U.S. – and Salem and the North Shore are no exception – childcare is scarce and expensive. In fact, Massachusetts is one of the more expensive states for childcare, making it unaffordable for low-income and even some middle-income families. That means it will be harder for women, who are most often the primary caregivers in their families, to take advantage of the training and job opportunities brought by this new industry. 

The U.S. spends less than 0.5 percent of its GDP on childcare, making it 35th in the world in terms of access, behind most other industrialized countries. Adding a provision for daycare into a CBA would help to make economic opportunity more equitable across our community. 

Of course, we’ll also be asking for the development of local supply chains, effective training programs, and for high-quality union jobs, with priority given to those living in environmental justice communities and those from disadvantaged groups (women, LGBTQ and immigrants). 

We are already engaging in outreach to ensure marginalized communities know about these emerging opportunities. And once the message has reached all those who want and need the hundreds of jobs this new offshore wind Industry will bring to our area, we must make sure the proper training and retraining programs are available: available during the day and in the evening, available nearby and along public transportation routes and also important, available to those who will need childcare or eldercare services to be able to attend.

Carol Hautau is a member of the SAFE board of directors and vice chair of Salem Recycles.