Unions Split With Enviros on Keystone

From The Washington Examiner:

Several hundred people held a protest last week in Tulsa, Okla., in favor of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline project. They weren’t Tea Partiers, either. They were members of the Pipeliners Local 798 union.

The union protesters wanted a crack at the 42,000 jobs the U.S. State Department has estimated would come from the project. They brushed off critics who said the jobs would mostly be temporary.

“Tell me a job today that’s not temporary,” an organizer said to cheers at the rally, according to the Tulsa World. “We’ve made a living all our lives off temporary jobs.”

Resourceful Earth previously wrote about the growing schism between Big Labor and Environmental groups over the Keystone XL Pipeline. The unions are having a tough time balancing their loyalty to President Obama with the concern from their members that they are killing much needed jobs by opposing construction of the pipeline.

While this Examiner article discusses a local Pipeliners union, the AFL-CIO has more or less officially endorsed the Keystone Pipeline, in so many words. From the New York Times:

ORLANDO — The A.F.L.-C.I.O., the nation’s largest federation of unions, has issued an apparent endorsement of the Keystone XL oil pipeline — apparent because it enthusiastically called for expanding the nation’s pipeline system, without specifically mentioning Keystone.

And while some union leaders said the federation’s stance stopped short of an official endorsement, the nation’s building trades unions — eager for the thousands of jobs the pipeline would create — issued a statement saying the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s stance was a clear endorsement of the Keystone pipeline.

The labor federation’s embrace of the pipeline, even with some ambiguity, will give President Obama some political cover as he weighs whether to approve the pipeline, which would carry more than 700,000 barrels of Canadian crude oil each day to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

But the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s move is likely to strain the alliances that organized labor has sought to build with the environmental groups that are battling the pipeline.

Back to The Examiner:

Why the reluctance? Well, nine of the AFL-CIO’s largest member unions have joined with groups like the Sierra Club to form the BlueGreen Alliance. The purpose of the group (also called the Apollo Alliance) is to push for investments in green energy jobs. It was, they argued, win-win all around.

They were successful in getting Obama to pour billions of taxpayer dollars into such programs, although the 5 million jobs that were supposed to be generated didn’t happen. Meanwhile, others in Big Labor claim that the green groups now are calling the shots.

Laborers’ International Union of North America President Terry O’Sullivan angrily quit the BlueGreen Alliance in January 2012, blaming it for why Big Labor did not spend more political capital on getting the pipeline project approved. (The alliance has not taken a position on Keystone.)

“We’re repulsed by some of our supposed brothers and sisters lining up with job-killers like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to destroy the lives of working men and women,” O’Sullivan said at the time.

There seems to be some back and forth on where the AFL-CIO actually stands on the pipeline, but regardless, its easy to see the “Blue-Green” alliance breaking down. The oil and gas industry has been a tremendous source of job growth in the past few years, and well, you know the story on green jobs. Environmentalists are going to continue to continue opposing natural resource extraction jobs, oil and natural gas (remember, fracking) jobs, and most energy related jobs that don’t involve constructing wind mills or installing solar panels. And of course there isn’t nearly enough demand for a significant number of those jobs.

While the Keystone Pipeline war has raged for close to a few years now, it appears as if we will finally get an answer on it this summer.


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