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Liam Cain

‘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.

Winterizing is Political

By Nickita Longman - Briar Patch, November 23, 2016

Organizing a camp takes all hands on deck. My recent visit to Oceti Sakowin Camp on Standing Rock reservation was no exception. While police surveillance of the camp goes round the clock, so does the tireless labour and work required to winterize the space with the impending cold.

The evening of November 20 marked perhaps the most violent attack of Standing Rock water protectors by militarized police to date: the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council estimated that 300 people were treated for injuries and 26 people were taken to hospital. Protectors at Standing Rock are resisting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is to cross the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. It had previously been planned to cross the river north of Bismarck, ND, but it was rerouted to its current path after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined it would threaten municipal water wells.

Protectors defending the Missouri River from the pipeline are not unacquainted with weapons euphemized as “less-than-lethal”: rubber bullets, concussion grenades, and teargas. The most disturbing use of force against the brave souls who are protecting water in Sunday night’s attack was the militarized police’s abuse of water cannons in freezing temperatures. Unicorn Riot reported that a 13-year-old girl was shot in the face by law enforcement; two people suffered the effects of cardiac arrest. Many suffered from hypothermia. With winter quickly approaching, winterization and warmth in the camp is needed now more than ever.

The developed camp houses seven kitchens, a main meeting dome and a mess hall, a medic centre, art spaces, donations tents, two sacred fires, a carpentry shop, a school, and plenty of individualized sleeping quarters. All of these spaces require revamping for the coming cold. Often, that entails insulation and flooring, and indoor propane heating.

The prairie cold in North Dakota is harsh and biting, and many allies and visitors from more temperate climates can be unaccustomed to it. The winterization process is all the more urgent to ensure that all protectors – those from the prairies or elsewhere – are insulated from the elements.

Liam Cain, a trade unionist with LIUNA 1271/IWW EUC, understands that winterizing is part of the long haul resistance. “The folks staying for the winter are inspirational and determined, and coming from Wyoming I recognize the necessity of solid, weatherproof shelter to get through the bitter cold.”

Cain, who has a general background in construction and is also a representative of Labor for Standing Rock, knows firsthand of the efforts required for the winterization process. “We were buying things in bulk – 2×4s, plywood, fasteners, screws,” he explains. Cain went on countless supply runs to assist the process. “Our motive was just to plug in with the people already starting the work and help bridge the gaps.”

In my short time at the camp, I volunteered in a kitchen operated by an Indigenous woman named Rachel. The kitchen recently had insulated flooring installed with the help of Cain and others associated with Labor for Standing Rock, and moving and organizing her space was the next step in promoting a smooth functioning kitchen to put warm food in the bellies of the water protectors.

LIUNA’s Rank-and-File is Challenging Union Leadership on Standing Rock—and Beyond

By Kate Arnoff - In These Times, November 7, 2016

To date, several unions have come out in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, including the Communications Workers of America (CWA), National Nurses United, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), American Postal Workers Union (APWU) and the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Terry O’Sullivan—General President of Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA)—has few kind words for them. In a letter from late October, he called them “self-righteous,” “a group of bottom-feeding organizations” that “have sided with THUGS against trade unionists” and showed “a truly amazing level of hypocrisy and ignorance.”

 “LIUNA will not forget the reprehensible actions and statements against our members and their families from the five unions listed above,” O’Sullivan warned. “Brothers and sisters, for every ACTION there is a REACTION, and we should find every opportunity to reciprocate their total disrespect and disregard for the health, safety and livelihoods of our members.”

But will union leadership take “ACTION” against its own members, many of whom are bucking O’Sullivan’s position and choosing to stand with Standing Rock? The fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline is creating and revitalizing alliances between indigenous communities, greens and labor. In short order, these newly strengthened ties could have a significant impact on the energy industry and the next president alike.

IWW Member Liam Cain: Why I Am With Labor For Standing Rock

By Liam Cain - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, November 3, 2016

I Just got back from a brief but inspiring trip to North Dakota with Labor for Standing Rock. Here Liam Cain from LIUNA Local 1271 / IWW EUC talks about the importance of defending the human rights of Native Americans and supporting their efforts to protect the Missouri River. Mni Wiconi - Water is Life

Rank-and-File Union Members Speak Out at Standing Rock Camp

By staff - Indian Country Today, October 30, 2016

Image by Karen Pomer

Despite escalating police violenceand AFL-CIO leadershipof pipeline, a delegation of union members from around the U.S. are spending the weekend of October 29 at Standing Rock camp to join Sioux water protectors against Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL.)

The delegation from Labor For Standing Rock(LSR), comprised of rank-and-file union members and working people.

Liam Cain,Union Laborer at LIUNA Local 1271 Cheyenne, WYand a LSR spokesperson, over years worked on numerous heavy construction sites and pipeline construction spreads. "To the union laborers working on these projects I would just implore you to listen to what regular folks are saying," Cain said. "Don't just listen to the bosses, and not to just the echo-chambers on the spread.

"Listen to the water protectors, listen to folks talking about just transition, a view of the future, involving good paying union jobs, involving many of your skill-sets. Just generating energy in a much more environmentally sustainable manner, rather than just gross over reliance on fossil fuels, that we currently engage in. As the saying goes, 'there's no jobs on a dead planet'."

Cliff Willmengis a registered nurse with UFCW Local 7, and former member of United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 1 in Chicago. He is a leader in Colorado fight against fracking, a rank-and-file labor activist and organizer for the Colorado Community Rights Amendment. Cliff’s work against the oil and gas industry made national headlines when Lafayette, Colorado banned frackingin 2013. He and his daughter Sasha delivered water tanks to Standing Rock Camp after authorities removed the water supply in August.

“As a healthcare provider, as a father of two, and as a union member I will be heading up to Standing Rock,” said Willmeng, union member and a co-founder of LSR. "We will be supporting the First Nations fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, to protect the environment for my kids, and as a rejection of the decision of the AFL-CIO support the pipeline."

Michael Letwinis former President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325in New York City, and Co-Convener of Labor for Palestine, whose online petitionin opposition to DAPL has garnered more than 12,000 signers and helped lay the basis for Labor for Standing Rock. In 1973, at age 16, he and others were arrested by the Nixon-era FBI under the Rap Brown Actfor participating in a relief caravanto the American Indian Movement occupation at Wounded Knee.

"Escalating police attacks against unarmed water protectors at Standing Rock on behalf of the oil and gas industry evokes images of Wounded Knee in 1890 and 1973, brutality against the civil rights movement, and state violence today from Ferguson and Baltimore to Palestine," Letwin said. "The labor movement has faced similar violence throughout its history, and from the same forces of greed and injustice."

Labor For Standing Rockwas created by rank-and-file workers and union members to mobilize growing labor support for the First Nation's fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The response from working people around the country has been nothing short of staggering. It is clear that the labor movement is no longer content to sit aside while Native American sovereignty is violated, and while land and water are risked. No oil company profits are more important than our rights and environment.

"We at Oceti Sakowin Campwelcome any and all support from our Union brothers and sisters," said Standing Rock Council in an October 13 message to Labor for Standing Rock. "This camp stands to protect our sacred water and support a new energy paradigm, jobs and work in green energy fields. We welcome your support in any ways you feel appropriate, join us in paving a new road to a sustainable future for many future generations."

VIDEO from this weekend here. Photos here.