Progress with Volkswagen Charging Stations Heading in Right Direction: Deal Would Ensure Work for Years to Come

In October of 2017, talks had stalled between IBEW and Electrify America (A subsidiary of Volkswagen of America) regarding the $800 million dollars’ worth of electrical work in California, $2 billion nationwide. The work is a result of the emissions scandal involving Volkswagen.

Volkswagen deceived American Consumers by secretly and deliberately installing software on vehicles designed to cheat State and Federal emission tests. The cars emitted nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times higher than allowed in the US. Volkswagen was sued and, as part of the settlement, agreed to allocate $800 million dollars in California to install Electrical Vehicle (EV) charging stations and create Green Cities with EV vehicles.

Volkswagen entered into an agreement with The California Air Resource Board (CARB) to perform Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) infrastructure which includes the planning, design, construction/installation, operation, and maintenance of ZEV refueling stations. Those refueling stations can dispense electricity, for example, 208-240 volt (Level 2) electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE but more frequently called chargers) at multi-unit dwellings (MuD), workplaces, and public sites; 480-volt direct current (DC) fast chargers; and subsequent generations of higher power chargers. They can also dispense hydrogen for fuel cell vehicles.

The talks which ended in October were to ensure that Volkswagen used their managerial discretion and see that area standard contractors like the ones that are signatory to IBEW would be performing the work. It was clear that Electrify America wanted to go in another direction and refused to continue dialog with IBEW/NECA.

It was decided that IBEW Local 11 needed to get the message out to the public over the concern that area labor standards would not be met on the settlement work for Electrify America. First Electrify America and Volkswagen were sent notice of labor disputes documenting the concerns that non-area standard contractors may be involved in the installation of the ZEV infrastructure. Followed up by phone calls. There was no response by Electrify America. Next, a packet was hand delivered to dozens of Volkswagen Dealerships in Southern California. This packet contained: a copy of the notice of labor dispute that was sent; a copy of a potential handbill that would be handed out to consumers; a copy of a sample banner; and legal paperwork regarding the lawful right to banner and handbill. Still no response from Electrify America. Dozens of letters of support for the use of area standard contractors, local hire and Veteran involvement were signed by state officials and sent to Electrify America and Volkswagen. Still no response.

IBEW Local 11 began their public awareness campaign handbilling then bannering several dealerships including the Western States Head Quarters for Volkswagen of America. In addition to the public awareness campaign, media outlets were notified, and a televised press conference was held in front of the Western States Head Quarters for Volkswagen of America. Also, a newsletter documenting the concerns highlighting Veteran participation was sent to every Volkswagen dealer in America.

After several weeks of the public awareness campaign and other concerted activities, Electrify America sent a letter stating that they wanted to meet. This meeting took place in early April 2018. There was no commitment to meeting our labor standards. It wasn’t until late August after the CEO for Electrify America was replaced that a conference call was set. It was clear from the call that Electrify America wanted to work with IBEW Local 11, so another meeting was put in place.

In that meeting it was revealed that Rosendin Electric had picked up 5 out of the 6 super charging stations in LA County. Electrify America agreed to look at the Community Workforce and Training Agreement Language for LA County to possibly extend to other areas. It looks like we are headed in the right direction to secure this work for IBEW Members for years to come.

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