By Mike Kufchak
IBEW, Local 11
I served my country as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. It was a choice I made, borne out of love of country and respect for those who served before me. I expected little in return, just the chance for steady employment so that I could provide for my family.
It’s one of the reasons I joined a union. To them, veterans matter. Unfortunately, there are plenty of companies that don’t feel the same way.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, therefore, when I learned that Volkswagen hasn’t committing to hiring at least 15 percent veterans as part of its Electrify America program. Not surprised, but disappointed nonetheless.
On the surface, the Electrify America program is a great opportunity for veterans. As part of a legal settlement stemming from a diesel emissions’ cheating scandal, Volkswagen agreed to allocate $800 million in California to install Electrical Vehicle (EV) charging stations and create Green Cities with EV vehicles.
Those stations are highly technical and sophisticated in nature, requiring highly-skilled contractors and technicians. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 11 (IBEW) provides extensive training and certification through the Electrical Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP).
IBEW also sets specific hiring goals for veterans and residents of disadvantaged communities, and through local area labor standards, provides good wages, full family health benefits and pensions. All of this creates opportunities and uplifts the economy. A good thing, right?
Up to this point, however, VW has not set specific hiring or training goals or committed to an approved apprenticeship program, nor has it committed to local area labor standards for wages, healthcare and other benefits.
It’s not enough, perhaps, that VW was caught in one of the worst corporate cheating scandals ever. You might recall that the company admitted to secretly and deliberately installing software on vehicles designed to cheat state and federal emissions tests. The cars emitted nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times higher than allowed in the U.S.
As an American, and as a veteran, I deserve better. The Electrify America program could and should provide high-quality employment opportunities for those of us who served our country, work hard and know how to get the job done. We’re not asking for more than we deserve, just a fair shake.
Please don’t let VW get away with this. Insist that they make an aggressive commitment to hire veterans and ensure the safety, efficiency and consistency of our electric-vehicle charging infrastructure by using EVITP-certified contractors and technicians.
Mike Kufchak, a resident of Corona, Calif., is Director of Veterans Affairs for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 11, which is based in Pasadena, Calif.