NEW BEDFORD — The local longshoremen’s union picketed and temporarily shut down work at the Vineyard Wind site on Friday, just one day after officials gathered to celebrate the arrival of the first of hundreds of wind turbine parts to the Port of New Bedford. 

Members of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1413 (ILA) said Vineyard Wind has fallen short on its pledge to hire both Black and local workers. 

Union president Kevin Rose said 12 ILA members have part-time positions on the Vineyard Wind project out of more than 300 union workers. He said the demonstrations will continue until Vineyard Wind signs a contract guaranteeing full-time jobs and employment for more ILA members. 

“They keep kicking it down the road,” Rose said. “So until we get a contract, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to stop the work.” 

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The UHL Felicity, a nearly 500-foot vessel loaded with heavy components to build the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind turbines, arrived in New Bedford from Portugal on Wednesday. After years of planning and false starts, it marked the physical arrival of the offshore wind industry in the Port of New Bedford. More components are scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks and months.

But on Friday morning, as ILA members formed a picket line blocking an entrance to the shipping yard, members of the other unions turned off the cranes in solidarity — effectively halting any unloading work and potentially creating a logjam for future  vessels. 

“That’s how we roll,” said one member of the International Union of Operating Engineers, who asked not to be identified by name. 

The ILA has deep roots on the New Bedford waterfront. Its members, most of whom are Cape Verdean, have unloaded cargo on the port for decades. Work has dried up as bulk shipping has outgrown the port, Rose said, and its members now mostly unload fruit juice containers on the State Pier. 

International Longshoremen’s Association members protest at the Marine Commerce Terminal. Credit: Eleonora Bianchi / The New Bedford Light

The prospect of offshore wind represented a glimmer of hope for ILA members, who thought it would mean not only more work, but years of steady employment as development ramps up along the East Coast, Rose said. But without a contract, he said steady employment is not guaranteed. 

“It would change the community,” he said. “But it’s not going to change the community if you don’t hire anybody local.” 

Tensions between Vineyard Wind and the ILA first began to emerge in 2021, when the company hosted a ceremony on the New Bedford waterfront to sign the first labor agreement in the offshore wind industry. The agreement committed the project to hiring 500 union workers; executives made further verbal commitments to hiring a local and diverse workforce. 

The agreement “will make sure local residents on the South Coast, Cape and islands can reap the greatest possible benefit from this new and growing industry,” announced Lars Pederson, who was then CEO of Vineyard Wind. 

But the ILA was left out of the labor agreement and forced to negotiate a contract separately. Now, on the dawn of offshore wind’s arrival in the Port of New Bedford, the ILA does not have an official contract with Vineyard Wind. Only 12 ILA members are working part-time positions on the Vineyard Wind project, Rose said, while over 100 workers from other unions have secured full-time positions. 

“Most of us live within blocks of the job site,” Rose said. “We’re right here. But they’re hiring all these other workers from out of state.” 

Vineyard Wind is currently negotiating with the ILA, though it is unclear if the company will meet the union’s demands in a signed contract. 

“Vineyard Wind is proud of our track record to build the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind project with union labor. Just yesterday, we celebrated a major milestone with the delivery of the first tower components to the Marine Terminal, which ILA members helped unload,” a Vineyard Wind spokesperson wrote. “With over 300 union employees having worked on the project to date, and many more to come, we will continue to find solutions with GE to help support union participation on our projects and remain confident that a compromise can be reached in New Bedford to support the ILA.” 

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