Inspired by Laudato Si, a growing number of Catholic parishes are reducing their use of fossil fuels by investing in energy efficiency and sometimes installing solar panels to meet their energy needs. That’s important, but in a construction industry marked by widespread wage theft and high workplace injury rates, what are they doing to make sure that the men and women performing that labor are being treated justly? Some are ensuring that workers on these projects are protected by a union contract.
That was the case at St. Monica/St. George, a parish located at the University of Cincinnati. When the care for creation team at the Parish started exploring their options for a solar conversion, the Archdiocesan facilities office connected them with PRO Lighting & Solar, a firm that has helped dozens of parishes upgrade their lighting systems to LED – saving energy and money.
Owner Matt Kolbinsky immediately saw the potential for the project. “The parish was renting dirty power from the power company. By installing their own solar panels, they could obtain ownership of your power supply – clean power from solar energy. Considering we have no planet B, we need to start doing this.” And Kolbinsky, a member of IBEW Local 212, relies entirely on union labor for his solar installations and efficiency upgrades, allowing the Parish to honor Catholic Social Teaching on labor and work while taking a stand against global warming.
“One of the selling points of the project was that Matt’s company was using all union labor,” explained Fr. Al Hirt, a Franciscan priest who was pastor of St Monica/St George during the project. “Knowing the Catholic Church’s history of support for union labor, that made the project very attractive to me.”
Sister Christine Pratt, part of the Church’s care for creation team during the project, seconded that notion. “Pope Francis called on us to practice an integral ecology that cared for the poorest among us. I think that this solar project exhibited three important Catholic Social Teaching principles: care for creation, the rights of workers, and the right to participation.”
PRO Lighting & Solar works throughout the Midwest. For more information, contact [email protected].