VWC Statement on Just Transition of Vermont Yankee

The Vermont Workers’ Center calls for an immediate and just transition for all Vermont Yankee workers who will be displaced when the aging nuclear power-plant is decommissioned.

The Vermont Workers’ Center believes the right to a healthy environment and livable planet is a fundamental human right, indivisible from other human rights such as housing, healthcare, and dignified work. We recognize that people must earn a living without compromising the needs of future generations. Unfortunately, at this time, many of our jobs are based in industries that are not sustainable, or are simply inhumane.  The priorities of capitalism require us to make false choices between employment or the environment, and provide jobs that divide our communities, pit allies against each other, and put the needs of distant shareholders over the needs of people and the planet.  

On a changing planet, we also recognize the short- and long-term impact of climate disasters that could put areas of our state and region at significant risk.  Either through an “act of God,” such as the Fukushima disaster, or the result of aging equipment or human error, an accident at Vermont Yankee would devastate our working landscape and threaten the livelihoods of many more Vermonters.  For these reasons, a great many of our members and allies in the surrounding community have rightfully called for the closing of this dangerous facility with a long record of disturbing mishaps. There is evidence of dangerous radioactive nuclides leaking into nearby ground and surface water, as well as deadly risks associated with operating an aging nuclear power plant.  We, therefore, place an urgent demand upon the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) to create a decommissioning fund that includes an immediate and just transition for the Vermont Yankees workers.

Entergy is a corporation that has made millions of dollars from our communities and its workers.  We must hold Entergy accountable to fully fund the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee to make this process safe for our communities.  We must also guarantee workers are not discarded, but are transitioned to decommissioning jobs or trained for new careers with good wages, benefits, and working conditions. Entergy must not be allowed to put the plant’s spent fuel into "cold storage" as they are threatening to do.  They want to avoid the actual costs of decommissioning and employing workers. It is estimated that the new jobs involved in Yankee decommissioning would require up to 1,000 employees over several years, while “cold storage” would result in virtually no jobs. The decommissioning of Vermont Yankee and the creation of new ecologically safe energy solutions should be covered by a strong project labor agreement that would facilitate preferential hiring for impacted workers, skilled labor, and union standards.  

In order to ensure and reinforce the human rights of all, we call upon the Department of Labor and PSB to work with Entergy and State and Federal governments to establish a super-fund to ensure the protection of workers. The Fund would supply financial help and assistance in retraining and job placement.  Because there are specialized jobs at Vermont Yankee, the dislocated worker support program shall emphasize retraining and placement into similar  positions to the extent possible.  The DOL shall also establish an office or offices to address the needs of clerical, administrative, and other non-management workers currently employed by Vermont Yankee. The program or fund shall:

  1. Ensure that displaced non-management workers receive first priority for job placement in positions consistent with their seniority and the provisions of any applicable bargaining agreements.
  2. Offer educational and retraining benefits.
  3. Provide an early retirement option for displaced workers, where appropriate.
  4. Provide transitional assistance benefits for any adversely affected community.

We further call upon the Department to Labor to ensure through a project labor agreement that jobs created during the cleanup and decommissioning phase must go to current workers, according to their seniority and at the same or better union wages and compensation.  Additionally, the State of Vermont should identify the communities that will be positively impacted by the net growth in alternative energy jobs once the Vermont Yankee facility is decommissioned, and give priority consideration for future economic development activities to any community adversely impacted during the transition.

We cannot let big corporations and the politicians beholden to them successfully pit people against each other to divide us.  We know our communities need both good jobs and a healthy environment.  We must transform public, economic, and environmental policy to put people and the planet first.  This will only happen by building one grassroots movement, uniting all to demand the dignified existence our human rights are meant to guarantee.  Our human rights are interdependent.  The right to a healthy environment can be balanced with the right to dignified work by the reemployment and retraining, if necessary, for our union family who currently depends upon Vermont Yankee for their livelihood. By prioritizing a just transition from our current economic and energy systems, we will move together towards a vibrant future of healthy and sustainable communities which realize our fundamental, and indivisible, human rights by putting people and the planet first.