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NFU expresses solidarity with Indigenous land protectors at Standing Rock

By Katie Ward - La Via Campesina, December 1, 2016

(Saskatoon, SK, November 30, 2016) – The 47th Annual National Convention of the National Farmers Union (NFU) resolved to denounce the repression of peaceful protesters, including Indigenous land protectors, and expressed its support for the rights of people to engage in acts of civil disobedience in defence of the preservation of water, air, land and wildlife for future generations.

"With this statement, the NFU joins the many thousands of grassroots groups, unions, and Indigenous communities around the world in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as they defend the land and water on their traditional territories," said Katie Ward, NFU Women's Vice President. "As family farmers, we are also people of the land who, like the Indigenous water protectors in North Dakota, want our children and their children after them to be able to cultivate healthy soils, drink clean water and live in a just society."

Since April 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies have put their bodies on the line to stop construction of the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL) in North Dakota. DAPL plans to go through Sioux territory because its original route under Bismarck was changed due to the town's concern for their water. The DAPL not only threatens the Missouri River and Lake Oahe reservoir which are the drinking water sources of the Standing Rock Sioux, but also burial grounds and sacred sites essential to the community's traditions and practices. In September, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples called on the USA to halt construction of the DAPL.

The water protectors' peaceful camps have been attacked by heavily militarized Morton County police and the pipeline company's private security guards using dogs, tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons and concussion grenades. Hundreds of people have been injured.

"The Dakota Access Pipeline struggle comes out of a long history of racism and colonialism in North America that has pushed Indigenous people to the margins of society," continued Ward. "It also signals that today, thousands of people from hundreds of Indigenous nations along with non-Indigenous supporters, are able to come together to resist the oil industry's power and create a space to live on the land in a good way."

Dakota Access Pipeline: Statement by Border Agricultural Workers

By Border Agricultural Workers - La Via Campesina, September 7, 2016

STATEMENT IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE STANDING ROCK SIOUX TRIBE AND THEIR STRUGGLE TO PROTECT THEIR WATER, THEIR NATURAL RESOURCES AND THEIR TERRITORIES

ON BEHALF of the Border Agricultural Workers of the US-México region, we express our solidarity with your struggle to oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline to protect your sacred natural resources and your territories. Two of our leaders, Rosemary Martínez and Joseph Martínez will be with you to not only participate in your historic struggle but also to learn how to best support your movement.

AS MIGRANT agricultural workers, we know fist hand the destruction caused by greediness and hunger for more and more profits by corporate capital, to our Mother Earth and all the sacred elements of life.

Commercial and industrial agricultural not only exploit us in the fields, buy also inflict a severe damage to nature. For this reason,we identify with your just cause.

OUR MESSAGE to the Government is clear: Instead of being accomplices of the Dakota Access Pipeline that is a threat to the Sacred Land of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Federal Government should stop the Dakota Access Pipeline and ensure that the sovereignty of the Sioux is respected.

WE ALSO make a call to all the social movements and the people of good will to join a firm and resolute solidarity with your struggle to protect the water, the natural resources and your Sacred Land.

WHEN OUR two leaders return to El Paso, they will inform us of your movement and then we will be ready to plan further and more effective actions in solidarity with your inspiring struggle.

Resisting the Resolution: Call to action in support of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and against the Dakota Access Pipeline

By staff - La Via Campesina, February 10, 2017

The epicenter of the struggle to defend our Mother Earth, Water and Nature is currently Standing Rock.

The North American Region of La Via Campesina sends its most sincere solidarity to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the water defenders in their heroic struggle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and in defense of Mother Nature and their sacred land. 

We demand that the federal government respect the territorial sovereignty of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.  

Finally, we call upon all of our members and allies of the North American Region of La Via Campesina to mobilize, firmly and widely, to stop the repression and violence by the police and the state against the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are protecting their water for all of us, as well as their ancestral land, and their sovereignty.

Why has the Dakota Access Pipeline become a divisive issue for U.S. Labour?

By Elizabeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, October 7, 2016

Protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota are continuing, according to Democracy Now on October 7.  On October 5, three U.S. federal judges heard arguments  over whether to stop the construction, but they are not expected to make a ruling for three or four months.  Meanwhile, Jeremy Brecher of the Labor Network for Sustainability released a new post , Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor,  which asks “Why has this become a divisive issue within labor, and can it have a silver lining for a troubled labor movement?”  The article discusses the AFL-CIO’s  statement  in support of the pipeline, and points to the growing influence of the North America’s Building Trades Unions’ within the AFL-CIO through their campaign of “stealth disaffiliation”.  It also cites an “ unprecedented decision” by the Labor Coalition for Community Action,  an official constituency group of the AFL-CIO , to issue their own statement in support of the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, in direct opposition to the main AFL-CIO position. The Climate Justice Alliance, an environmental justice group of 40 organizations, has also written to the AFL-CIO in an attempt to begin discussions.  Brecher’s article concludes that the allies and activist members of the AFL-CIO are exerting increasing pressure, and asks “Isn’t it time?” for a dialogue which will shift direction and build a new fossil-free infrastructure which  will also create jobs in the U.S.    For unions interested in supporting the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a sample resolution for local unions is available from the Climate Workers website.

Labor Leaders Support the Dakota Access Pipeline—But This Native Union Member Doesn’t

Article and Image by Brooke Anderson - Yes! Magazine, October 18, 2016

This article is part of a collaboration between YES! Magazine and Climate Workers that seeks to connect the experiences of workers with the urgency of the climate crisis.

As clashes over the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline continue in North Dakota, a related battle is brewing in the halls of organized labor. In a statement issued September 15, the nation’s largest federation of trade unions threw in its support for the controversial oil pipeline.

The president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) denounced the actions of the Standing Rock protectors, stating that “trying to make climate policy by attacking individual construction projects is neither effective nor fair to the workers involved.”

Thousands of people, including members of over 200 tribes, have been camped at the construction site for months to stop the pipeline, which would move 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day across four states, threatening the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

As the controversy heated up, four unions representing pipeline workers denounced the water protectors, claiming they were illegal protesters who were committing dangerous actions while Illegally occupying private land. The AFL-CIO, which represents 55 unions and 12.5 million members, quickly followed suit.

Many union members were furious. Unions representing nurses, bus drivers, communications workers, and electrical workers issued statements in solidarity with the tribe and opposing the pipeline.

However, some critical voices have been missing from the conversation: those of indigenous union members themselves. One of those members is Melissa Stoner, a Native American Studies librarian at the Ethnic Studies Library at the University of California Berkeley and a member of American Federation of Teachers 1474, AFL-CIO.

I recently sat down with Stoner. She shared her experiences growing up on the Navajo Reservation, advocating for domestic violence survivors, falling in love with libraries, and wrestling with the contradictions of a labor movement divided on climate at a critical moment.

Unions Congratulate the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on Denial of Authorization for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)

Statement from 1199 SEIU; Amalgamated Transit Union; Brotherhood of Maintenance and Way Employees Division, Pennsylvania Federation–Teamsters; National Domestic Workers Alliance; National Nurses United; New York State Nurses Association; United Electrical Workers - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, December 9, 2016

We are unions representing members in health care, domestic work, public transit, railroads, manufacturing and other sectors.

We congratulate leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and thousands of supporters for the news that the federal government will deny authorization for the Dakota Access Pipeline to go through tribal lands posing a threat to water sources and sacred sites.

The Obama Administration’s decision respects the sacred grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux and takes into consideration the potential of a hazardous pipeline leak that would harm the community’s life and livelihood.

This is a historic victory, and an organizing victory that every union member can identify with, against one of the most powerful economic and political forces in the world: the fossil fuel industry and its many allies inside and outside government. These forces have used private police that have not hesitated in using violence to intimidate those participating in peaceful protest.

Mindful of our own history in facing private police and vigilantes in the fight to establish workers’ rights, trade unionists have stood shoulder to shoulder with the First Nation water protectors, environmental and community supporters, and many allies who have mobilized and rallied for months against huge odds.

Our unions will continue to join with opponents of the Dakota Pipeline along other routes and fight to halt similar projects that transport dirty crude oil that jeopardize public health and contribute to the climate crisis.

We also stand in solidarity with the construction workers who build our country’s infrastructure, and also with the workers in coal, oil and gas, many of whom have lost their jobs due to the collapse in global prices. In accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement, we call for a “just transition” for workers whose jobs and livelihoods may be threatened by the move away from fossil fuels.

But there is much work to be done in modernizing and repairing bridges, roads, tunnels, public transit systems, etc., many of which have become dilapidated and dangerous to workers and the public.  But jobs based on expanding (and exporting) fossil fuels will simply lead to more environmental destruction, worsening health, climate instability and social upheaval at home and abroad.  Business as usual is not an option.

Together we can demand the development of sustainable energy production and resource initiatives that unequivocally provide good, safe union jobs while salvaging the health and well-being of the earth’s population.

Our future depends on our willingness to engage and organize among progressive forces and social movements in order to effectively meet the challenges ahead.

Eyewitness Dakota: Standing with a Native Led Movement Against Extreme Energy

By Irene Shen - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, October 14, 2016

I just returned from Standing Rock, North Dakota where I stayed at the camp with thousands of others gathered to resist the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). I decided to go because, despite the lack of major media coverage, this has been the most visible Native-led movement against America’s system of exploitation in our country, and one that deeply impacts all of us, from issues of clean drinking water to climate change. I also went because I believe that we can’t allow the fossil fuel industry or our government to perpetuate a history of genocide for profit by jeopardizing the water source of thousands of Native Americans while ignoring their treaty rights and sacred lands – an example of capitalism at work. I knew that the water protectors at Standing Rock wanted people to come out there, so I went to contribute whatever I could to win the battle.

Standing Rock is an opportunity to organize and raise people’s consciousness that the climate crisis is the result of a system that exploits land and working people and then displaces them, so that natural resources can be extracted for profit. Without a systemic change, more pipelines will be constructed for profit and more communities will be destroyed, especially poor communities of color, regardless of a defeated DAPL or better energy policies.

Many people who were at Standing Rock were there because they decided to fight against a system that can seem unbeatable. Instead of letting discouragement or fear keep them away, they chose to fight the fossil fuel industry and our government that supports the destruction of their water supply and land. I wanted to connect with people in that context, to talk about the need for systemic change and to bring that energy of hope and a fighting spirit home to local battles against displacement, environmental racism and exploitation.

Labor Must Embrace the Anti-Trump Resistance to Fight for the Working Class

By Jeremy Brecher and Joe Uehlein - In These Times, March 2, 2017

The Trump presidency presents organized labor with a dilemma.

On the one hand, Trump’s advocacy for fossil fuel, infrastructure and military expansion promises to provide jobs for some union workers. His proposals to end trade deals and put tariffs on manufacturing imports align with long-standing labor opposition to pro-corporate globalization.

On the other hand, Trump and his Republican allies in Congress propose tax, budget and social welfare policies that would impoverish most workers. His Cabinet nominees are proven enemies of organized labor and the rights of workers. And his executive policies, legislative priorities and likely Supreme Court appointments point towards catastrophic restrictions on organized labor.

A portent of the future: Vice-President Mike Pence recently discussed with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker how to go national with Wisconsin’s restrictions on collective bargaining and union rights. Union membership has dropped some 40 percent in the state since Walker’s collective bargaining law passed in 2011. Only 8 percent of Wisconsin’s workers were in unions last year.

Some in organized labor, especially in the buildings trades, have met with Trump, provided photo ops, and advocated that unions try to work with him, particularly on trade, energy and infrastructure. They know that many union members voted for him. Others have called for resistance to the entire Trump agenda.

The effort to embrace and work with Trump is short-sighted at best, and it may be short-lived. The survival of the labor movement depends on denying Trump the power to implement his agenda. The Trump presidency is likely to be catastrophic even for those unions that are currently seeking his favor. If the power of organized labor and its allies is further diminished, governments and corporations will be free to create a “union-free environment” for the building trades as for everybody else.

Trump’s infrastructure proposals are based on tax credits to private investors, private equity, and low-cost construction. The result is likely to be the banning of prevailing-wage rules and union security provisions for construction workers. Case in point: The Republican-led Kentucky legislature recently passed not only “right-to-work” and “paycheck protection” laws, but repealed the state’s prevailing wage law—a crucial support for building trades unions.

The attack by Trump and his Republican allies comes at a time when organized labor is already weakened. Less than 11 percent of all wage and salary workers are in unions, compared to some 20 percent in 1983. Less than 7 percent of private sector workers are in unions. Close to 35 percent of public sector workers are union members, but they are already under attack that will intensify under Trump.

While Trump’s actions will be devastating for organized labor, they may also have a silver lining. The Trump era is seeing the emergence of what has been called “social self-defense,” a massive self-organization of millions of Americans to resist Trump’s agenda. It has been manifested by the millions who participated in the Women’s March, the spontaneous actions against Trump’s Muslim ban, the mass demonstrations and community meetings in cities around the country, the millions of calls that have tied up politicians’ phone lines and myriad other forms of resistance.

The term “social self-defense” is borrowed from the struggle against the authoritarian regime in Poland 40 years ago. In the midst of harsh repression, Polish activists formed a loose network to provide financial, legal, medical and other help to people persecuted by police or unjustly dismissed from work. They organized free trade unions to defend the rights of workers and citizens, and nurtured many of the networks, strategies, and ideas that eventually helped topple the repressive regimes in Poland and other countries.

Death on the Dakota Access: Oil & Gas Boom Generates Dangerous Pipeline Jobs Amid Lax Regulations

Antonia Juhasz interviewed by Amy Goodman - Democracy Now!, September 12, 2018

AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting from San Francisco, the site of this week’s Global Climate Action Summit. I’m Amy Goodman. Thousands, tens of thousands of people marched here in San Francisco Saturday to demand action on climate, jobs and justice, as they kicked off the Rise Against Climate Capitalism conference, a counter-conference to California Governor Jerry Brown’s Global Climate Action Summit.

Today the conference will highlight the common goals of climate activists and labor. That’s also the focus of an explosive new report headlined “Death on the Dakota Access: An investigation into the deadly business of building oil and gas pipelines,” published today in the Pacific Standard magazine. It looks at the deaths of two men who worked on DAPL—that’s the Dakota Access pipeline—and the massive oil and natural gas boom that’s generated some of the deadliest jobs in the country.

For more, we’re joined by the report’s author, Antonia Juhasz, longtime oil and energy journalist. Her books include Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill and The Tyranny of Oil: The World’s Most Powerful Industry—and What We Must Do to Stop It.

Welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us, Antonia.

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Thanks for having me, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about why you began this piece, why you started this investigation, “Death on the Dakota Access.”

ANTONIA JUHASZ: Yeah, I’d been covering Standing Rock for some time, and I was actually doing an interview with LaDonna Brave Bull Allard in Standing Rock, and she told me that back in 2014 when she first learned of Dakota Access pipeline, she knew she was going to oppose it. And the reason why, she told me, was, “No one is going to build an oil pipeline over my son’s grave,” because of how close it would pass to where her son was buried.

That death got me to thinking about the pipeline itself as a source of injury and harm and death, not just spills that might come from it, and have, or leaks, or where it was being built, but then the people involved in building it. And I started looking at construction and learned of the death of a young man who was building the Dakota Access pipeline, Nicholas Janesich, 27 years old, and his death was reported by the AP.

I started to dig into what had happened to him, and as I started doing that investigating, I learned that just three days later, at the opposite end of the pipeline, another worker building the Dakota Access pipeline had died during construction. So then I said, “I need to learn more about oil and gas pipeline construction,” and went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics to look at fatality rate data, because I had already learned that the drilling of oil and natural gas, so the extraction workers, has been found to be one of the deadliest jobs in America, with fatality rates as high as seven times the national average. So I went to see what were the fatality rates for oil and gas pipeline construction workers, only to learn that they had never been run. The Bureau of Labor Statistics had never run that data. They didn’t even start counting deaths in this sector until 2003.

Native rights and resistance after Standing Rock

Nick Estes and Ragina Johnson interviewed by Khury Petersen-Smith - Socialist Worker, January 24, 2018

One of Donald Trump's first acts as president was to sign executive orders to push through construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and Keystone XL Pipeline. Both projects were flashpoints of Indigenous resistance, especially DAPL, which sparked a rebellion at Standing Rock that galvanized months of protest and political action around the country.

The executive orders signaled Trump's hard line against Indigenous protest, as part of his broader attack on oppressed people, the working class and the environment. More recently, Trump announced the reduction of protected lands at Bears Ears National Monument, amid a series of insults toward Native Americans, such as his disrespect of Navajo veterans when they visited the White House.

Nick Estes is a co-founder of the Red Nation website, and Ragina Johnson is an activist and member of the International Socialist Organization. Both participated in the Standing Rock resistance and other struggles, and have written prolifically on Indigenous politics. They talked with Khury Petersen-Smith about the state of the struggle after Standing Rock and the questions of Indigenous oppression and self-determination that lie before us.

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