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Sharp Solar
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In Partnership With:  IBEW

Creating good jobs at home in a growing industry

At a Glance

Sharp Solar is a market leader in domestic solar panel production. It is a division of Sharp Electronics Corporation, a subsidiary of Sharp Corporation, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of solar cells.

Headquarters
Memphis, TN

Website
www.sharpusa.com

Industry
Renewable Energy

Union Employees
385 manufacturing and production workers

Annual Revenues
N/A

Outlets
Manufacturing facility in Memphis, TN and two training centers

Sharp Solar is bringing good manufacturing jobs back to the United States while providing residential, commercial, and utility customers access to clean energy. The company assembles solar panels with the partnership of its skilled employees and their union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

At a time when many jobs are being shipped overseas, Sharp sees the value of manufacturing in the United States. In 2003, Sharp Corporation capitalized on the expanding U.S. solar energy market by bringing solar panel production to Memphis, TN. The company re-tooled one of its television manufacturing plants, hiring many of the same workers and continuing its relationship with the IBEW, which has represented Sharp’s Memphis workers since 1983. The company has provided solar modules for many large-scale solar projects, including those at Google and Denver International Airport, and produces enough solar panels every year to power more than 16,000 homes. Sharp has received awards for its environmental leadership from Energy Star, the EPA, and the U.S. General Services Administration.

Sharp Solar is now one of the world’s fastest-growing renewable energy companies, and attributes its growth to its strong relationship with its workers’ union. Management and the union meet monthly to discuss workplace issues, and have together improved manufacturing capability by investing in plant equipment and technology. The company added 180 employees to its Memphis facility between July 2009 and March 2010 and moved to a 24-hour production schedule, working closely with the union to implement the new schedule smoothly. As solar division Vice President Ron Kenedi puts it, “Who says working with unions is unproductive or unprofitable: look at our growth!” Labor-management cooperation especially pays off in a crisis: when a tornado damaged the facility in 2008, the union and the company worked together to rebuild the plant, bringing all employees back on the job within a week.

Customers in the hot solar energy market seek out Sharp products because they are manufactured domestically by a company with progressive labor relations. The National Photovoltaic Construction Project (NPCP) uses Sharp Solar products exclusively, because Sharp’s Memphis facility can deliver a product more quickly than an overseas factory and, as NPCP’s managing director has put it, “An experienced crew of unionized workers will outperform non-union day laborers any day of the week.” For this renewable energy leader, environmental sustainability, workers’ rights, and business success go hand in hand.

 
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