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Labor for Standing Rock

Standing with Standing Rock

By Marty Goodman - Socialist Action, January 13, 2017

More than bitter winter weather lies ahead for hundreds of Native American nations and their supporters battling hazardous fossil-fuel pipelines on sacred Sioux land at the Standing Rock camp near Cannonball, North Dakota. A far more bitter struggle looms for Native American rights and climate justice with the incoming Trump administration. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Trump’s choice for the Department of Energy, is a climate-change denier and sits on boards of Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco, two companies involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Oil company execs are vowing to complete the pipeline despite a Dec. 4 decision by the Obama administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to not give the go-ahead to Dakota Access Pipelines (DAPL) to dig pipelines under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, a source of drinking water for the Sioux nation and millions downstream. The decision instructs the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an environmental study with community input, a process that could take one or two years.

On Dec. 13, the New York Daily News posted a recording it had received in which Mathew Ramsey, a top exec at Energy Transfer Partners, DAPL’s parent company, was said to be telling ETP staff, “I’ve got to tell you, election night changed everything.” Ramsey said on the recording, “We fully expect as soon as he is inaugurated this team is going to move to the final approvals, and DAPL will cross the lake.”

Vulture capitalist and President-elect Donald Trump has declared his support for the pipeline and is personally invested in DAPL for up to $1 million. Also invested are many of the corporations of Trump’s billionaire pals, such as Chase Morgan bank, the Bank of America, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo—which alone has invested $467 million. The pipeline will extend 1170 miles from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota through sacred Sioux land to Illinois and ultimately to the Gulf Coast. The cost is $3.7 billion.

A lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe contends that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other federal laws in allowing the pipeline to be dug under Lake Oahe. If the Army Corp’s permission to dig is restored, or if the federal court in North Dakota accepts DAPL’s arguments, pipeline construction could resume.

North Dakota’s laws are the strictest when it comes to allowing out of state public defenders to represent “water protectors” facing charges in court, now totaling at least 550. The Water Protector Legal Collective (WPLC) of the National Lawyers Guild provides legal support but is overwhelmed and urges the state to relax its guidelines. Seventy-five North Dakota lawyers have been assigned 165 cases, but an additional 264 water protectors remain without lawyers.

The WPLC has also called for the dismissal of State Attorney Ladd Erickson for his inflammatory comments in court, referring to water protectors as staging “fake news” and “simply props for videos of stage events.” The hearings have been postponed, and the Trump administration’s actions will ultimately determine the continued relevance of the lawsuit. Whatever happens, the first rule of capitalism will still apply: ‘laws are meant to be broken’ … if they stand in the way of profits!

Originally, DAPL was to traverse an area close to the mostly white Bismarck, some 50 miles distant, but when the plan encountered opposition, the pipeline was rerouted to Standing Rock. DAPL is in violation of the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie and the treaty of 1868. In the 1950s, hundreds of thousands of acres of Sioux land was seized to make way for a dam, with little or no compensation. In the treaties, the Sioux agreed to keep the area undeveloped and for hunting, but it is now ravaged by fossil-fuel polluters.

Demonstrating corporate contempt for the environment, a recent examination of oil spills in the last 30 years revealed over 8700 pipeline spills. On Dec. 13, two hours from Standing Rock, a pipeline spilled an estimated 176,000 gallons of crude into the Ash Coulee Creek. Sunoco Logistics, DAPL’s future operator, has the worst safety record of all. According to government statistics, it has had over 200 leaks since 2010. Last October, a Sunoco gas pipeline ruptured in Pennsylvania, spilling 55,000 gallons into the Susquehanna River.

The outrage at Standing Rock is a continuation of 500 years of the rape of Native American rights through massacres, racism, land theft, and forced displacement. DAPL is a textbook case of environmental racism and is in violation of international laws and agreements on the rights of indigenous peoples.

ILWU pledges solidarity with Standing Rock

By Staff - ILWU Dispatcher, January 12, 2017

On December 6, the ILWU International Executive Board voted unanimously to adopt a statement of policy opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The controversial project is opposed by Native Americans across the continent because it threatens Native lands and water.

The pipeline’s original route would have crossed the Missouri River upstream from Bismarck, North Dakota, but was rerouted because of concerns that an oil leak would contaminate the City’s water supply.Pipeline proponents want the oil to cross just a half-mile upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, buried underneath the tribe’s water supply.

The ongoing protest by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on their North Dakota reservation began in April, 2016. The effort has drawn world-wide attention and attracted thousands of Native American supporters and allies. It has become the largest protest gathering of Native Tribes in recent history.

International Executive Board Statement of Policy

“The Tribal Nations of the Great Plains rely on the waters of the life-giving Missouri River for present and future existence, and the Dakota Access Pipeline construction poses a very serious risk to that continued existence. The Dakota Access Pipeline threatens the safety of the areas of fish and wildlife, sacred sites and historical archeological resources that lie within and around the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and associated lands,” declares the ILWU Statement of Policy.

The International Executive Board also approved a $10,000 donation to the Standing Rock Sioux from the solidarity fund. The Coast Longshore Committee added an additional $5,000 donation.

“The ILWU has never been afraid to take a stand on important political issues,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath

Support for the Standing Rock Sioux was first expressed by the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners Association that adopted a resolution in September of 2016.

Local 10’s Executive Board then passed a resolution on November 8 against the pipeline project and in support of increased funding for workers affected by any jobs lost on the pipeline. The resolution called on the labor movement to support a “just transition” for workers into renewable energy jobs, to help working families, combat climate change and promote investment in renewable energy.

10 Indigenous and Environmental Struggles You Can Support in 2017

From - Sacred Stone Camp, January 10, 2017

The Black Snake is not yet dead. Far from it. The corporations behind the Dakota Access pipeline made it clear that they “fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe.”

The winter camps will stand their ground as long as DAPL construction equipment remains on Oceti Sakowin treaty land. We can all continue to support them by emailing or calling the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at 202-761-8700 to ask when it will open the Environmental Impact Statement process to public comment. We can also keep pressure on the banks to divest with our international campaign to #DefundDAPL.

But while international attention has been on the Standing Rock Sioux and the #NoDAPL struggle, the Obama and Trudeau administrations have approved several other pipeline projects slated to run across indigenous territories from Canada to the U.S. and Mexico. The struggle to protect sacred lands from climate change, toxic pollution, and the fossil fuel industry continues to rage around the world.

In the year ahead, it is our hope that the energy and love we have received in our struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline can also be extended to other indigenous communities in their local battles. Here are ten struggles you could consider donating to, volunteering time for, or supporting in other ways:

Hopelessly devoted to fossil fuels

By Amy Leather - Socialist Review, January 2017

World leaders are failing on climate change. Theresa May’s Tory government has given the go ahead to a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point, backed the expansion of Heathrow airport and overturned the local decision in Lancashire to stop fracking. Meanwhile climate change denier Donald Trump is heading to the White House.

The last decade has seen a massive expansion of so-called “dirty energies” such as fracking, deep water drilling, and tar sand extraction. The pledges to reduce carbon emissions in the Paris Agreement, signed by 196 countries in December 2015, are only voluntary. Even if signatories kept to them we would still be on track for global warming far higher than is sustainable.

The scale of the crisis is widely recognized. Climate scientists and environmentalists such as Ian Angus have shown that we have entered a new geological era — the Anthropocene — in which the dominant influence on the environment is human activity. Unless urgent action is taken we face catastrophic climate change. The solution to global warming is quite simple — we need to stop burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas which release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and instead make a rapid switch to renewables.

So why won’t our rulers act? We need to look beyond the individual politicians. There are, of course, the climate change deniers, who must be challenged and stopped, but much of the ruling class does accept that climate change is a reality. The problem is they are guardians of a system with fossil fuels at its heart. Tackling the climate crisis would mean tackling the vested interests of the fossil fuel corporations — some of the most profitable companies in the world. To understand why capitalism and fossil fuels are so intertwined we need to go back to the time of the industrial revolution in Britain.

Andreas Malm, in his book Fossil Capital, outlines how in the early 1800s an energy transition took place in Britain. The first machines of the industrial revolution, the spinning and weaving machines of the cotton industry, were driven by water. In 1800 there were at least 1,000 water mills concentrated in Lancashire and Scotland. Even as late as the 1820s most mills in Manchester were still water-powered. Just ten years later steam generated by burning coal had overtaken water.

Standing fast at Standing Rock

By Lois Danks - Freedom Socialist, December 2016

Indian-led encampments on Standing Rock Sioux territory are digging in for the North Dakota winter. They are determined to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. And they are not alone, as thousands upon thousands join their bold struggle to save planet resources and peoples.

Already they have won a temporary victory from the government to halt the digging, but Dakota Access is moving equipment to tunnel under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. And the Norway-based bank DNB has sold its pipeline assets and may terminate loans.

The construction, which was fast-tracked without a full environmental review and without the knowledge and consent of the Standing Rock Sioux, is planned to carry half a million barrels of oil every day. A spill would poison the water supply and farmlands of the Standing Rock Indian reservation and of 17 million people downriver.

Since April the largest Standing Rock camp (Oceti Sakowin or the Seven Council Fires) has welcomed hundreds of tribes and dozens of delegations including the Two Spirit (LGBTQ) delegation and Labor for Standing Rock. At times the camp swells to over 7,000 people dedicated to halting the pipeline construction.

CalPERS, CalSTRS, UC Invested in Dakota Access Pipeline Despite Pledges of Sustainability

By Darwin Bond-Graham - East Bay Express, December20, 2016

Last Monday, two-dozen activists chanted, sang, and drummed outside Wells Fargo' San Francisco headquarters to demand the bank stop financing the Dakota Access Pipeline. Wells Fargo has drawn criticism for its central role in raising funds for the pipeline's construction. But banks aren't the only Bay Area institutions that stand to profit if the pipeline is completed.

The University of California and the state's two largest public pension systems, CalPERS and CalSTRS, are also invested in Energy Transfer Partners and the oil company Sunoco, which recently merged with ETP in a deal worth $20 billion. ETP and Sunoco are the companies building the Dakota pipeline.

According to the UC's most recent annual report for its employee-retirement system, it has $3.1 million invested in Energy Transfer Partners bonds.

CalPERS, the state's giant public-employee retirement system, has invested $57 million in Energy Transfer Partners. The retirement system also owns Sunoco bonds worth $1.8 million.

And the California State Teachers Retirement System, or CalSTRS, owns $34 million in Energy Transfer Partners bonds and another $12.8 million in Sunoco bonds.

"By buying these corporate bonds they're betting on the success of the pipeline," said Janet Cox of Fossil Free California, a group that advocates divesting from fossil fuels.

Teachers, students, and public employees have rallied for years to divest retirement funds and endowments from oil, gas, and coal. Results have been slow and mixed.

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.

Unions stand at Standing Rock

By staff - NW Labor Press, December 14, 2016

The standoff at North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux Reservation — with Indian tribes and supporters on one side, and police and private security for the Dakota Access Pipeline on the other – also finds labor union members on both sides.

North America’s Building Trades Unions and the AFL-CIO have come out in favor of the project moving forward, because it’s a big source of union jobs. But other labor organizations have declared support for pipeline protesters, and in Oregon and Washington, a number of union members have traveled to Standing Rock to take part in the massive protest encampment — a nonviolent uprising that has united Indian tribes nationwide.

Roben White — a retired union painter and former president of Painters Local 10 — is one of them. White is of mixed Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne ancestry on his father’s side, and he’s an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He’s also a staunch unionist who says he was pained to see unions take a stand he disagrees with.

The Standing Rock Sioux object to the pipeline chiefly because of the potential risk to their water supply. When complete, the Dakota Access Pipeline would pump 470,000 barrels a day of light crude oil through a 30-inch-wide, 1,172-mile-long pipeline from the Bakken Oil Fields of northwestern North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to refining facilities in Illinois. The pipeline’s route was originally supposed to cross the Missouri River just upstream from Bismarck, North Dakota, but because of concerns that an oil spill could wreck the city’s water supply, the route was changed to cross just upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The pipeline would cross half a mile north of the reservation, 92 feet underneath the Standing Rock Sioux water supply — Lake Oahe, a reservoir formed by a Missouri River dam.

To protest that course, in April, members of the tribe established a “spiritual camp” on Army Corps of Engineers land along the banks of the Missouri river. By August, it had become the largest gathering of Native American tribes in more than a century. With protesters attempting to stop construction, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple declared a state of emergency Aug. 19. Private security contractors, joined by police reinforcements from six states, deployed in armored personnel carriers, and used rubber bullets, tear gas grenades, pepper spray, and sound cannons against unarmed protesters. On Sept. 3, security guards attacked nonviolent protesters with pepper mace and dogs.

Then on Sept. 9, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and Department of the Army asked that the pipeline company voluntarily halt construction within 20 miles of Lake Oahe, after a federal judge denied the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for a temporary injunction.

Shortly after that, national AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka weighed in with an official statement on the pipeline: “The AFL-CIO supports pipeline construction as part of a comprehensive energy policy,” he declared Sept. 15. “Pipeline construction and maintenance provides quality jobs to tens of thousands of skilled workers,” Trumka said. Community involvement is important, Trumka said, particularly in situations involving places of significance to Native Americans, but, he added, “once these processes have been completed, it is fundamentally unfair to hold union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay.… Furthermore, trying to make climate policy by attacking individual construction projects is neither effective nor fair to the workers involved.”

Reacting to Trumka’s statement, White, the former Painters Local 10 president, picketed with half a dozen other local unionists outside the Sept. 23 annual awards banquet of the AFL-CIO’s Southwest Washington Labor Roundtable.

“I’m all labor. I live and breathe it,” White said. “I’m not questioning the fact that they want those jobs. I made my living in the building trades too. But there is a point that we need to take responsibility. … How ‘bout fixing the pipelines that are busting all over the place? How ‘bout changing the infrastructure so we don’t have to use so much oil and gas?”

For the Standing Rock tribe, protest banners say, “water is life.” But for many union construction workers, pipelines are how they earn their living. After the federal agencies requested a halt to construction, five national union presidents wrote to President Obama. “The [Dakota Access pipeline] project is being built with an all-union workforce and workers are earning family-sustaining wages, with family health care and retirement contributions,” wrote the presidents of Operating Engineers, Electrical Workers, Teamsters, United Association and Laborers. “However, the project delays are already putting members out of work and causing hardships for thousands of families.”

The pipeline is providing work for an estimated 4,500 members of building trades unions.

But a number of labor organizations not directly involved with the project issued statements supportive of the protests, including Amalgamated Transit Union, American Postal Workers Union, Communications Workers of America, National Nurses United, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

‘An injury to one is an injury to all’

By Angela K. Evans - Boulder Weekly, December 1, 2016

Since July, thousands of people have joined the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota as they protest the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which is slated to carry up to 570,000 barrels of crude oil every day for 1,172 miles from North Dakota to Illinois. The protesters, who call themselves “water protecters,” have been joined by members of other Native American tribes, environmentalists, international sympathizers and members of several labor unions.

Liam Cain, a card-carrying member of Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, first traveled to North Dakota after he heard that large trade unions such as LIUNA and AFL-CIO called on the governor of North Dakota to protect union members working on the pipeline by sending in the National Guard.

“If anyone knows anything about the labor movement or labor history, they know it’s a deeply hypocritical and soulless thing for them to do. It aligns them as the junior partners in capitalism and divorces them from whatever was good with the labor movement in terms of the working-class and fighting for the working-class population. …

“This is actually a union I’m a part of,” he continues. “I may have philosophical disagreements with people who are in this union but this isn’t a philosophical disagreement. This is a soulless, disgusting thing that the International [Union] signed off on and the rank and file is not all on board with.”

Originally from Humboldt County, California, Cain first joined LIUNA in 2008 to work on a major pipeline being built through Cheyenne, and he has worked on several mainline pipeline construction projects since. Lately, he’s spent more of his time fighting wildfires around the country but still picks up jobs on pipelines during the off season.

In North Dakota, Cain joined up with the Labor for Standing Rock delegation, a group of workers in a variety of unions who have traveled to Standing Rock to show their solidarity with the Native Americans and environmentalists protesting the pipeline.

San Diego Labor Opposes Dakota Access Pipeline

By Jim Miller - OB Rag, December 12, 2016

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the heroic struggle against it have ignited a big battle inside of American labor. Earlier this fall an excellent article in Common Dreams outlined the split over DAPL at the national level with key trades unions and AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka backing the pipeline and criticizing the protests while other large national unions were issuing statements supporting the Standing Rock resistance.

Here in California and elsewhere, Trumka’s letter in support of the pipeline received strong condemnation.

For instance, a response to it that I penned as chair of the California Federation of Teachers Climate Justice Task Force challenges the AFL-CIO leader in the strongest possible terms:

“In sum, your statement is factually inaccurate, morally suspect, politically inept, and does not stand for the values that should guide a progressive union movement worth being a part of in an era of stark threats to the future of our children.”

I have yet to receive a response.

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