First and most important: the termination of any division or employee, regardless of how it was handled, is not something I take lightly and I want to make clear our intentions to do right by employees of Bright Power Installation and Construction LLC (BPIC). The reasons for closing down BPIC have nothing to do with unionization or politics.
We started BPIC four years ago as a construction division to install solar panels in NYC. We learned the hard way that running in-house construction crews was more difficult than we thought it would be. The solar market is a cyclical and uneven one that often results in significant ebbs and flows of project volume. This was an issue for BPIC, where at times we would not have enough work for them and other times there was too much.
We were also not able to achieve the level of installation efficiency, or avoid the costly need to re-do work, that was needed to make these projects work financially for Bright Power. BPIC projects consistently averaged 30% over budget, something that as the leader of this organization, I take full responsibility for.
We have deep respect for our employees and their rights. BPIC voted to unionize as part of IBEW Local 3 in April 2019. After the vote, we commenced negotiations with the union, meeting nine times since April to hammer out a union contract that could work for both BPIC employees and the company.
Unfortunately, BPIC was already a struggling part of our business prior to unionization. We have continued to be unsuccessful at managing BPIC well or profitably. As a small company, Bright Power needs to focus our limited resources on our core strengths: professional services, project development and project management for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Going forward, we plan to exclusively hire and manage other companies to do the physical installation of solar projects, as we do with energy efficiency and other technologies. We welcome the opportunity to work with contractors who employ unionized labor. On balance, no green jobs will be lost as a result of BPIC’s closing. In fact, we hope to be able to create more green jobs for contractors by doing more projects, without the burden of managing our own crews.
An article by Vice, as well as articles in politically charged media on both ends of the spectrum, contain significant misinformation, particularly regarding BPIC wages, safety, and severance.
Accounting for prevailing wage work and paid time off, average hourly wages for BPIC have been from $20 to over $44 per hour. On an annual basis, BPIC crew members have earned $40,000 to $70,000, and forepersons earned $60,000 to over $90,000, depending on seniority and quantity of prevailing wage work and overtime. Importantly, our BPIC workers have received quality benefits, including: medical, 401k, paid time off, professional development training and company-provided lunch. We also have done our best to schedule full-time work weeks, regardless of how well they align with the labor needs of projects.
We take safety very seriously, contrary to what was reported. Our crew experienced two incidences of injury, but neither was intentional or malicious. We fully investigated both incidents, put new safety policies in place, and gave trainings to the crews.
On November 18th we announced closing two departments, totaling 17 jobs: 4 in Software Development and 13 in BPIC. This is out of a total workforce of 159 people, with 135 in New York. We informed BPIC employees, with two weeks’ notice, that we intended to shut down that part of the business. They have continued to work and be paid since that announcement. We have also offered to help them find new jobs.
After announcing our intention to close BPIC, we immediately notified and met with IBEW Local 3 to negotiate a fair severance agreement. Those negotiations continue. The exact terms have not yet been agreed upon, but it will certainly be more than one week. We very much hope to resolve this shortly, but despite our repeated efforts, the union has chosen not to meet with us since November 19th. Today, we extended the employment of BPIC workers by another week, with an intended end date of December 10th, to give their union more time in negotiating severance.
I deeply appreciate the contributions of each and every Bright Power and BPIC team member and the work that they do each day. I started Bright Power in 2004, when I was 25, with a dream of creating a company that would help buildings use less energy and limit the impact of climate change that threatens the planet. Fifteen years later, we have worked with over 41,000 buildings, 1.2 billion square feet, and 1.4 million apartments. We have been at the forefront of the green movement in NYC, and played an important role in the recently passed Climate Mobilization Act. I am proud of our accomplishments and am committed to doing so much more.
The employees of BPIC have been an important part of that work. I am grateful for all that they have done and deeply regret having to close their division. We hope that we will have opportunities to collaborate with them on future projects as they find positions with other installation companies, doing work that we can all be proud to be a part of, and that is so essential to the future of our planet.
If you have any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and I or a member of the team will get back to you promptly.
President & Founder