Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class
KALAMAZOO July 22, 2015– John Cakmakci, president of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 951, recently penned an op-ed for the Kalamazoo Gazette in which he urges state lawmakers to pass an extension of the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) before they expire at the end of the year.
The Kent-Ionia Labor Council board passed a resolution last month calling for the same thing, as well as expanded energy efficiency programs, money to invest in resilient infrastructure, and to create economic opportunities for workers in the green economy.
From Cakmakci’s MLive/Kalamazoo Gazette op-ed:
Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects are prompting local businesses to think outside the box in the pursuit of meeting Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). The solutions companies are using to take charge of energy consumption are exactly the kinds of projects that will be scaled back or even vanish if the RPS is allowed to expire at the end of the year.
Knouse Foods Cooperative Inc. is one example that illustrates the many ways management and union members can work together to protect the environment for generations to come, while at the same time, investing in a more sustainable bottom line. The company — an over 60-year-old fruit grower-owned cooperative that makes apple sauce, apple juice, and pie fillings — employs 88 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) 951. Recognizing that the company and its employees rely heavily on the environment for their livelihoods, Knouse Foods decided to double down on its commitment to sustainability by incorporating more of these practices into every step of its operations.
UFCW 951 members at Knouse Foods are taking the lead to address a range of resource sustainability and reuse practices throughout the company’s processes including water, air, solid waste and hazardous material concerns. “Environmental Awareness Committees” have implemented a variety of solutions from lighting improvement projects and pipe insulation projects, to the installation of high efficiency motors in many motor replacement projects.
Projects such as the Consumers Energy Lake Winds Energy Park have sprung up over the past few years, providing a boost of nearly $10 million for Mason County and the state of Michigan.
Currently, Michigan’s energy sector profile consists of approximately 83,000 workers. Overall, energy manufacturing adds $7.2 billion to Michigan’s economy each year, according to the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council.
The RPS has been instrumental in securing numerous economic and environmental returns. Let’s not cut the success of the RPS short by allowing it to expire at the end of the year.
The RPS has undoubtedly made the economy more competitive — creating a demand to retool manufacturing facilities to build technology such as wind turbines. Across the state, we’re using more clean energy, growing manufacturing strength, and expanding businesses that make energy efficient appliances and parts more than ever before. Let’s continue to put the proven-effective strategies of the RPS to work to grow the economy and protect the environment.