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Labor for Standing Rock

Solidarity Report from Standing Rock

By Nancy Romer - New Politics, Winter 2017

The struggle at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was one of the major political mobilizations of 2016, combining the demand for Native rights with the call for environmental justice. New Politics asked Nancy Romer to cover these events for us. She was at Standing Rock from November 10-15.

Her initial report and her article on the meaning of the victory achieved on December 5—and the struggle that still remains—have been posted on the New Politics website. Here we print two more of her dispatches from the scene, showing some of the day-to-day dynamics of standing with Standing Rock.

In this report I will try to give you a sense of what it was like to be at Standing Rock. Tonight completes my third day here. The weather has been mostly cold but very sunny. The colors, the sky, but most of all the people are startlingly calm and beautiful. The Standing Rock encampment is defined as a prayer site, a place to contemplate and to appreciate nature, “the creator” (not my words), and each other. The indigenous people here, from just about every tribe in the United States and some from Canada, are so welcoming and warm to outsiders. They repeatedly say how much they appreciate the presence of non-indigenous folks and how they want to share with us. They are strict on the rules: no violence of any kind; no drugs, alcohol, or guns; respect for indigenous ways; making oneself useful.

The vast encampment contains four or five separate but connected camps, some on the Sioux reservation land, others outside. The largest one is immediately off reservation land, Oceti Sakowin Camp; it is the one in which most of the activities happen. The others are either defined by age—elders or youth—or vary by activity. There is a “Two-Spirit Camp” for gender non-conforming people, a traditional and accepted group in Native culture. We spend most of our time at Oceti, but today I took a long walk and visited two of the other camps just to get a flavor of them. “NO DAPL” stands for “No Dakota Access Pipeline,” and signs with the slogan are everywhere, as is the phrase “water is life.” There is a religious feel to the camps and great respect all around. In many ways this is a very old-style indigenous encampment, and in many ways it feels like a post-revolutionary or post-apocalyptic future. The pace is slow though everyone seems to move with great purpose. People jump in and do the tasks that seem to be needed: cooking, cleaning, helping each other to put up a yurt or a teepee, chopping wood, tending fires, washing dishes, and offering legal, medical, or psychological help. Cell and internet service is miserable and probably interfered with by the constant drones that fly above the camps.

On Friday morning, day two of my trip, I attended a brilliantly presented orientation to the camp. One of the presenters was Maria Marasigan, a young woman I know from our shared days in the Brooklyn Food Coalition. It was the best anti-racist training for allies that I have witnessed: It was succinct, not guilt-trippy, and very direct. The three main concepts are: indigenous centered, build a new legacy, and be of use. Presenters shared the Lakota values that prevail in the camp: prayer, respect, compassion, honesty, generosity, humility, and wisdom. For me the most impactful point was respect. They defined that as including slowing down, moving differently with clearer intention and less reactivity. They suggested asking fewer questions and just looking and learning before our hands pop up and we ask to take up space. They clarified a gendered division of behavior and practice, including asking “feminine identified” women to honor traditional norms by wearing skirts during the sacred rituals (including in the cooking tent) and for women “on their moons” to spend time in a tent to be taken care of and rest if they choose. Somehow it seemed okay, actually respectful, not about pollution and ostracism. While I was helping out in the cooking tent—my main area of contribution—an indigenous woman came by with about ten skirts and distributed them to the mostly women in the cooking tent, explaining that cooking is a sacred activity, and we gladly put them on. It served as an extra layer of warmth over my long underwear and jeans. It was not what I expected but it seemed fine to all of us. We just kept chopping away at the veggies.

Later that day I attended a direct-action training that was also quite thorough and clear. Lisa Fithian, an old friend from anti-war movement days, led the training and explained how to behave in an action and how to minimize police violence. Lisa, along with two other strong, smart women, one Black and one Native, laid out a plan to do a mass pray-in in town the next day. My friend and travel companion Smita and I both felt that we couldn’t risk arrest and decided not to join that direct action but to be in support in any way we could. At 8 the next morning about a hundred cars lined up in convoy formation at the exit of the Oceti Sakowin Camp, each with lots of passengers—including some buses and minivans—and went into Manwan, the nearest town. The indigenous folks formed an inner circle and the non-indigenous formed a circle around them. The indigenous folks prayed, sang, and danced. The tactic was exercising freedom to practice their religion while protesting the Dakota Access Pipe Line. No arrests were made despite massive police and drone presence. One local man tried to run over a water protector, but she jumped aside; the man had a gun but was subdued by the cops. Lots of videos were taken, and the man was taken to the local jail. 

On Saturday I finally got a press pass, having been requested by New Politics to cover the encampment. That gave me the right to take photos (otherwise not allowed), but with limitations: no photos of people without permission, or of houses or horses, again, without permission from the people with them. I set out to interview people at the various camps and to get a sense of what people were planning to do for the winter. I spoke with Joe, a part Lakota from Colorado who had been raised Catholic and attended Indian residential schools, taken from his parents by the state because it doubted the ability of the Native community to raise their own kids. He said it was brutal. When asked why he was here, he replied, “This is the first time since Little Big Horn that all the tribes are uniting against a common enemy—the black snake—the pipeline that will harm our water, our people. This unity is making us whole.”

Brothers and Sisters, It’s Time to Fight

By Kevin Norton - Labor Notes, February 15, 2017

The speed of events since Trump’s inauguration has made my head spin. The administration’s absolute onslaught against women, environmentalists, Muslims, immigrants, and the government itself began on day one. So I was a little shocked to see some of the building trades union leadership meet so happily with our nation’s first orange president.

“We have a common bond with the president,” Building Trades President Sean McGarvey said. “We come from the same industry. He understands the value of driving development, moving people to the middle class.” McGarvey also commented that President Obama had never met with the trades.

Some enthusiastic Trump supporters have lit up my Facebook page with stories about how he is going to “Make America Great Again.” One wrote, “I was told Trump was anti-union... Being an informed voter, I knew it was hogwash... here’s the proof.” He left a link to an article about the new president’s meeting with the union leaders.

Fawning over Trump Shuts Out Our Movement’s Future

By Len Shindel - Labor Notes, February 15, 2017

Surrounded by key union leaders, Trump was relaxed and smooth. He thanked the Sheet Metal Workers for their work on his hotel down the street—even as an electrical contractor was suing his company after allegedly getting stiffed on the job.

Union leaders clapped when Trump announced he was trashing the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump said their members would soon be needed to complete a load of new projects as he terminated the “disastrous” trade policies that had sent jobs out of the country.

He assured them they would be building new Ford plants and pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities for companies like Johnson and Johnson. The union leaders said they also asked Trump to move ahead, despite widespread protests, on the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Pandering to the Predator: Labor and Energy Under Trump

By Sean Sweeney - New Labor Forum, February 3, 2017

Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20th 2017 saw unions and activist groups from numerous social movements take to the streets and declare an all-out war of resistance to both his presidency and his agenda.  

As is now clear, some union officials have not only dodged the draft, but have actually joined the opposition. Trump has made it clear that he intends to give full-on support for the further development of fossil fuels. He plans to revive coal, and get behind fracking for shale oil and shale gas. He also plans to approve major infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. This just happens to be a big part of labor’s agenda also, and agenda that has been largely shaped by the North American Building Trades Unions (NABTU).

A Trump-Trades Confederacy?

Leaders of NABTU have not only openly embraced Trump’s energy agenda, they  quickly warmed up to Trump himself—and some of his proposed appointees. In a pre-inauguration statement, NABTU praised Trump for nominating former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillermen to be Secretary of State. NABTU said, “We believe he will be a tremendous success,” and praised Tillermen’s “resilient and dynamic grasp of both global and domestic policy issues, and a deep and unyielding sense of patriotism for our great nation.” Of this writing, even prominent Republicans are uncomfortable having someone with a pension plan worth $70 million and who owns $218 million’s worth of company stock become the country’s top diplomat.

In another sign of approval for Trump, the Laborer’s union (LiUNA) criticized the outgoing Administration’s decision to remove offshore areas for future leasing. In one of his final acts as president, Obama thwarted oil and gas industry plans to explore and drill in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. Attacking Obama, the union stated, “LIUNA looks forward to working with the Trump Administration to reverse this and other regressive energy policies enacted by the outgoing President.”  This from a union that just a few years ago was on the cutting edge of the “green jobs” agenda, an active partner in the Blue-Green Alliance, and one of the first US unions to call on the Obama administration to adopt the science-based emissions reductions targets proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Also significant was Trump’s post-inauguration White House meeting with labor leaders on Jan 23rd.  Participants included NABTU President Sean McGarvey, LiUNA President Terry O’Sullivan, Sheet Metal workers’ union President Joseph Sellers, Carpenters President Doug McCarron and Mark McManus, president of the Plumbers and Pipefitters. Progressive unions were, it seems, not invited. McGarvey told the New York Times “We have a common bond with the president…We come from the same industry. He understands the value of driving development, moving people to the middle class.”

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.

The challenge at Standing Rock

By Sara Rougeau, Ragina Johnson and Brian Ward - Socialist Worker, February 7, 2017

WATER PROTECTORS and supporters of the #NoDAPL movement have been rocked by a series of orders and press releases from the Trump administration and the state of North Dakota in recent weeks. The pronouncements appear to set the stage for the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

While some politicians backed by various oil and gas corporations overstated the implications of these announcements, water protectors are also debating what the pronouncements mean and the best way to continue the fight against the pipeline.

Some movement leaders are calling for continuing the struggle by rebuilding the protest camps, but others, including Standing Rock Sioux Chair Dave Archambault II, have called on protesters to stand down and limit the struggle to a legal battle in the federal courts.

Already on February 1, law enforcement carried out 74 arrests of water protectors establishing a new camp on land belonging to Energy Transfer Partners--and on February 3, the Bureau of Indian Affairs announced it would send additional agents to assist local police in clearing the camps, according to the Washington Post.

UPTE-CWA resolution demanding University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP) divest from Energy Transfer Partners and from Banking Institutions that fund the Dakota Access Pipeline

By the University Professional and Technical Employees union (UPTE-CWA) - Resolution, January 15, 2017

WHEREAS, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe actively opposes the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) by Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) on unceded treaty lands of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties. The lands are the sites where the ancestors have been laid to rest and on which DAPL continues to desecrate; and

WHEREAS, The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe actively opposes the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) along a route under Lake Oahe and across the Missouri River, the primary source of drinking water of the tribe. The pipeline is slated to carry up to 570,000 gallons of crude oil per day along its 1, 172 mile route and pipeline ruptures have become increasingly more common throughout the U.S. and a pipeline burst would not only endanger the Standing Rock Sioux reservation but it would also endanger the clean water downstream since the Missouri River is a major tributary to the Mississippi River which more than 17 million people depend on for both human consumption and irrigation; and

WHEREAS, The members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe are fulfilling the responsibility conferred upon them by their ancestors to Protect the Sacred Lands and Water for future generations and invite people to stand with them and join them in peaceful prayerful non-violent direct actions and to actively DIVEST from Energy Transfer Partners and any financial institution that is providing financial support for this project; and

WHEREAS, the Sacred Stone camp, Rosebud, Oceti Sakowin camp (Seven Council Fires Camp) and now also the Oceti Oyate Camp (One Nation camp) have become major camps of non-violent resistance which brought together more than 300 Native American tribes throughout the U.S, Mexico, Central America, South America, the First Nation people of Norway, Australia and the Polynesians and thousands of people from around the world, to stand with Standing Rock and participate in prayerful non-violent direct action and among those that have participated in the activities in the camps are native and non-native members of organized labor as well as 4,000 U.S. military veterans; and

WHEREAS, the prayer ceremonies and non-violent direct actions carried out by the water protectors have been met with a brutal military response from DAPL security and Morton County Sheriff’s Department and to the arrests of more than 500 Water Protectors. The military response is unwarranted against unarmed civilians whom are exercising their rights under the U.S. Constitution. Lawsuits have been filed against Morton County and DAPL security for its disproportionate use of violence and its use of attack dogs and “non-lethal” weapons such as rubber bullets, LRADs, 5lb cans of far reaching mace, tear gas shot into crowds, water cannons sprayed in sub-freezing temperatures and concussion grenades in ways that have caused serious and permanent bodily injury; and

WHEREAS, solidarity with Standing Rock has been voiced by a growing number of labor bodies, including the Communications Workers of America; Academic Student-Employees-UAW Local 4123; Amalgamated Transit Union; American Federation of Teachers Local 2121-City College of San Francisco Faculty Union; American Postal Workers Union; Black Workers for Justice; Border Agricultural Workers; California Faculty Association; California Federation of Teachers, Climate Justice Task Force; Canadian Union of Postal Workers; Canadian Union of Public Employees; Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions; Chicago Graduate Employees Organization, IFT/AFT AFL-CIO Local 6297; City of Madison LIUNA local 236; GEO-UAW Local 2322; GEU-UAW Local 6950; GSOC-UAW Local 2110; GSU-UChicago, IFT/AFT Local 6300; Industrial Workers of the World; IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus; Labor Coalition for Community Action; Labor for Palestine; Labor for Standing Rock; National Nurses United; New York State Nurses Association; National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981; Rutgers AAUP-AFT; SEIU 503 OPEU; Service Employees International Union; TAA-Graduate Worker Union of UW-Madison; United Electrical Workers; and University of California Student-Workers Union-UAW Local 2865; and

WHEREAS, union members, including UPTE members have shown support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the water protectors by donating money and supplies to the Sacred Stone, Rosebud, Oceti Sakowin (Council of the Seven Fires) and Oceti Oyate (One Nation) camps as well as by going to the camps individually and in delegations such as Labor for Standing Rock and providing donated labor to assist the camps in its preparations for the extremely cold North Dakota winter weather conditions and staying there to provide continued support; and

WHEREAS, University of California has committed itself to Global Sustainability goals and supports the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement yet its financial investments in the University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP Holdings) include more than $3 million dollars in Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the main corporation behind the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), as well as hundreds of millions of dollars of shares in many of the banks that are financing the Dakota Access Pipeline, which contradicts the stated goals of the Paris Climate Agreement since the continued extraction of fossil fuels will undoubtedly put the planet at risk of surpassing the 2 degree mark; and

WHEREAS, the Solutions Project, known previously as the Wind, Water and Sun study by Stanford University provides an evidence-based approach towards reaching our sustainability goals and a renewable energy future by investment in clean energy jobs and would steer us away from the destruction of our planet and lead us towards a Just Transition away from a fossil fuel economy; and

WHEREAS, millions of people are realizing that the false dichotomy of jobs vs environment no longer is sustainable and are opposed to the violation of Treaty Rights as well as violations of Human and Civil Rights perpetrated against the Water Protectors and are actively withdrawing their personal and business accounts from the banks that are funding DAPL as well as for calling for the divestment of ETP shares from their CALPERS and CALSTRS;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT: University Technical and Professional Employees-CWA calls upon the federal government to immediately end construction of and remove the Dakota Access Pipeline, and

be it further RESOLVED, that UPTE calls for an immediate end to state violence against the water protectors at Standing Rock and dismissal of all charges against Water Protectors, and

be it further RESOLVED, that this union urges the entire labor movement to actively promote just transition to a sustainable alternative energy economy that respects indigenous rights, the environment, and the rights of all workers to safe, well-paying union jobs, and

be it further RESOLVED, that this union will seek divestment of all union, benefit and Retirement funds from Energy Transfer Partners, Citibank, Wells Fargo Bank and other DAPL funders and will seek to invest in a future that will reduce our carbon emissions and help create a just, sustainable and prosperous future for all.

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:

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