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jobs versus environment

From Pipelines to Prisons: The intersection of native rights, mass incarceration and environmental justice

By Panagioti Tsolkas and Nicholas Todd - Earth First! Journal, September 30, 2016

Over the past month, two seemingly disparate issues of prisons and pipelines have captured the attention of activists and independent media across the country. On September 9, as a judge ruled to halt construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), prisoners around the country began a work strike coinciding with the anniversary of the famous Attica uprising.  As we write, demonstrations are continuing nationwide to express solidarity with native tribes resisting the DAPL and for prisoners who launched a coordinated nationwide strike against slave labor in the American prison system.

Now, perhaps more than ever before, the spotlight is on the pushers of pipelines and prisons. Despite a void of coverage by mainstream outlets, social media is ablaze with independent articles covering these two topics. Pipeline opponents who’ve been amassing in North Dakota are now also looking south as drilling under the Mississippi River begins and nearly 340,000 gallons of gas spilled in central Alabama from one of the region’s major pipelines; likewise, prisons in at least 11 states all across the country remain on lockdown in response to the strikes and detailed reports of the strike are only now trickling out.

Just as the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, with 25% of the world’s prisoners held in its 5000 detention facilities, it also has the world’s most vast network of energy pipelines, with more than 2.5 million miles of pipe which is reported to suffer hundreds of leaks and ruptures every year.

pipeline_line_map-630x420

Pipelines in the U.S. as of 2012

While battles around indigenous land rights have a long history of overlap with the environmental justice (EJ) movement, there is a developing body of research and activism placing prisoners’ rights in the EJ context as well, since prison populations in every state of the U.S. are populated disproportionately by people of color. Only establishing common ground over the conventional concept of “environmental” angles surrounding these issues offers too shallow of an analysis; deeper solidarity requires understanding the bigger picture: the history of a social ecosystem surrounding broken treaties and toxic prisons alike. Doing so can only increase the effectiveness and long term success of struggles to defend the Earth.

Prisons in the U.S. as of 2015

At first glance, drawing a relationship between struggles surrounding prisons and pipelines may seem a stretch, but 45 years ago, activists were readily making these connections. Organizations like the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the Black Panther Party arose and co-existed in a very similar setting. Their bold direct actions inspired the solidarity of many people outside their respective communities as well. One example being activist-attorney William Kunslter, with the National Lawyers Guild, who went from negotiating on the side of the predominately Black prisoners of Attica to representing AIM members after the Wounded Knee stand-off at Pine Ridge. Activists today must know this history and continue to build on this tradition.

AFL-CIO Backs Dakota Access Pipeline and the “Family Supporting Jobs” It Provides

By Kate Aronoff - In These Times, September 17, 2016

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) came out this week in support of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the construction of which was delayed last week by an order from the Obama administration—a decision that itself stemmed from months of protests led by the Standing Rock Sioux.

In a statement, Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO president, said, “We believe that community involvement in decisions about constructing and locating pipelines is important and necessary, particularly in sensitive situations like those involving places of significance to Native Americas.”

But it “is fundamentally unfair,” he added, “to hold union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay. The Dakota Access Pipeline is providing over 4,500 high-quality, family supporting jobs.

“(Trying) to make climate policy by attacking individual construction projects is neither effective nor fair to the workers involved. The AFL-CIO calls on the Obama Administration to allow construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline to continue.”

It’s an open secret in labor that North America’s Building Trades Unions—including many that represent pipeline workers—have an at-times dominating presence within the federation’s 56-union membership. Pipeline jobs are well-paying union construction gigs, and workers on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) can make some $37 an hour plus benefits. As one DAPL worker and Laborers International Union member told The Des Moines Register, "You’ve got to make that money when you can make it.”

But an old blue-green mantra says, “there are no jobs on a dead planet.” The parts of organized labor that have taken that phrase to heart are far from unified around Trumka’s DAPL backing—even within the AFL-CIO. National Nurses United (NNU) has had members on the ground at Standing Rock protests and others around the country have participated in a national day of action.

"Nurses understand the need for quality jobs while also taking strong action to address the climate crisis and respecting the sovereign rights of First Nation people,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, NNU’s executive director and a national vice president of the AFL-CIO.

In response to the federation’s endorsement, DeMoro cited the work of economist Robert Pollin, who found that spending on renewable energy creates approximately three times as many jobs as the same spending on maintaining the fossil fuel sector.

NNU isn’t alone. As protests swelled this month, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) released a statement in support of the Standing Rock Sioux, stating that “CWA stands with all working people as they struggle for dignity, respect and justice in the workplace and in their communities.”

Unions like the Amalgamated Transit Union and the United Electrical Workers have each issued similar statements supporting protests against the pipeline, and calling on the Obama administration to step in and block the project permanently.

For those who follow labor and the environment, however, the above unions might be familiar names. Many were vocal advocates for a stronger climate deal in Paris, and sent members to COP21 at the end of last year. They were also those most vehemently opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline, and all supported Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. While friendly to progressives, these unions have tended to have a relatively limited impact on bigger unions, like the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

According to Sean Sweeney, though, this small group of unions might now be gaining strength. “Progressive unions are becoming a more coherent force,” he told In These Times.

Sweeney helped found a project called Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, which works with unions around the world on climate change and the transition away from fossil fuels, including the National Education Association and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ in the United States. He also runs the International Program for Labor, Climate and the Environment at City University of New York’s Murphy Institute.

“It could be said that it’s just the same old gang making the same old noise, but for health unions and transport unions to go up against the building trades and their powerful message and equally powerful determination to win ... that was a bit of a cultural shift in the labor movement,” he said, referencing the fights against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. “That suggests that it's going to continue.”

Sweeney mentioned, too, that it wasn’t until much later in the fight around Keystone XL that even progressive unions came out against it. “A lot of these unions,” he added, “know a lot more about energy and pollution and climate change than they did before.”

Between Trumka’s DAPL endorsement and the Fraternal Order of Police’s endorsement of Donald Trump for president, this week has shown a stark divide between parts of American labor and today’s social movements. Progressive unions face an uphill battle on many issues, within and outside of organized labor. The question now—on the Dakota Access Pipeline—is whether today’s “Keystone moment” can break new ground in the jobs versus environment debate.

Managed Decline: A Just Clean Energy Transition and Lessons from Canada’s Cod Fishing Industry

By Adam Scott and Matt Maiorana - Oil Change International, September 12, 2016

There’s a clear logic to the global challenge of addressing climate change: when you’re in a hole, stop digging. If we’re serious about tackling the global climate crisis, we need to stop exploring for, developing, and ultimately producing and consuming fossil fuels. This inevitably leads to the decline of the oil, gas, and coal industries.

This leaves us with two clear options. Either we carefully manage the decline of the fossil fuel industry to ensure a smooth and just transition, or we let the chips fall where they may and risk decimating communities that are reliant on the fossil fuel economy. The path we choose will make all the difference to those communities as the decline of fossil fuels becomes inevitable.

A textbook example of how NOT to manage the decline can be found in the painful history of the Newfoundland cod fishery.

One of eastern Canada’s premier industries, the cod fishery defined the economy and the culture of coastline communities for centuries. Commercial fishing off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland dates back as far as 1500, but it wasn’t until factory trawlers were introduced around 1950 that catches became increasingly unsustainable. At its peak in 1968, the catch of northern cod in the Atlantic reached 1.9 million tons. However, the impact of overfishing soon became apparent.

In the 1980s, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans received increasingly dire warnings about the rapidly diminishing fish stock from fishermen and scientists, but these were largely ignored. Much like climate science models today, these marine science models were often ignored when setting quotas and planning for future catches. These plans weren’t set by the scientific models, but instead by politicians. Despite mounting evidence, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans continued to boost catch quotas without regard to the impacts of their actions. A 1992 Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans audit found that the science regarding the health and management of cod stocks “was gruesomely mangled and corrupted to meet political ends.” As a result, fish stocks continued to plummet.

Dakota Access opens rift in AFL-CIO and debate within labor movement

By Paul Roland - KBOO, September 28, 2016

Audio File

After AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued a statement on September 15 (link below) harshly criticizing Native Americans and others opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline DAPL), a growing number of progressive unions and labor organizations--many of them AFL-CIO affiliates--stepped forward to stand with the Standing Rock and other Native Nations and their allies.

While a similar conflict surfaced during the KXL pipeline controversy, it remained less openly contentious because the section that would have passed through the Dakotas was ultimately cancelled by President Obama. Now, with DAPL construction massively underway and hundreds of Native Nations uniting against the pipeline and gathered in an encampment of thousands, the battle lines are being more clearly drawn.  Perhaps Native troubadours there are singing the old United Mine Workers song from the 1930's, "Which Side Are You On?" 

Among the unions and organizations opposing the pipeline are Oregon's SEIU 503, the Pacific Coast Pensions Association--ILWU, the Labor Coalition for Community Action (which includes the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the labor council for Latin American Advancement, and Pride at Work), National Nurses United, ATU transit workers, California Faculty Association, Communication Workers of America, IWW Environmental unionism Caucus, National Writers Union UAW Local 1981, UE ( United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America) and others.

Today's guests are Gregory Cendana, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, an AFL-CIO member organization (http://www.apalanet.org/national-staff.html); Roben White, enrolled Oglala Lakota of Pine Ridge and long-time local union activist;  Laura John, Blackfeet/Seneca and member-activist of SEIU Local 503 who pushed her local to adopt a statement in support of the Standing Rock and against the DAPL, and Rob Sisk, President of SEIU Local 503.

Work Week Radio: AFL-CIO and Opposition To Pipeline and Brazilian Workers Strike

By Steve Zeltser - Work Week Radio KPFA, September 27, 2016

WorkWeek looks at the growing conflict in the labor movement over the Dakota Access Pipeline project and the protests by Standing Rock Sioux Native Americans and other tribes and supporters against the pipeline. LIUNA, the Teamsters, Operating Engineers and Richard Trumpka of the AFL-CIO have supported the pipeline. Additional LIUNA, IBT, Pipefitters and Operating Engineers have also called for calling in the National Guard to protect the pipeline workers from protest.

Unions including the National Nurses Union NNU, Amalgamated Transit Union ATU, Communication Workers Of America CWA and American Postal Workers Union have opposed the pipeline and supported the protesting Native American tribes.

WorkWeek interviews NNU Director of Director of Environmental Health and Climate Justice for National Nurses United (NNU) Fernando Losada. We also interview Jeremy Brecher who is a labor writer and with Labor For Sustainability.

They discuss the split in labor, what is behind it and also the labor management partnership between the building union leadership and the oil and fossil fuel corporations.

Next WorkWeek looks at the upcoming strike in Brazil of auto and metal workers along with bank and public workers with Fabio Bosco who is with the Sao Paulo Metro workers union and Conlutas a labor federation which is supporting the strike.

Big Labor has an identity crisis, and its name is Dakota Access

By Aura Bogado - Grist, September 28, 2016

A growing rift has split the country’s biggest union federation, the AFL-CIO. Many labor activists and union members are outraged that Richard Trumka, the federation’s president, threw the AFL-CIO’s support behind the Dakota Access pipeline project earlier this month.

The AFL-CIO’s statement backing the pipeline was announced a week after the Obama administration put construction on hold. Trumka acknowledged “places of significance to Native Americans” but argued that the more than “4,500 high-quality, family supporting jobs” attached to the pipeline trumped environmental and other considerations.

That move rankled many in the AFL-CIO’s more progressive wing, highlighting strains within the federation of 56 unions representing 12 million workers. Recent tensions within the AFL-CIO have deepened a long-running divide between a more conservative, largely white, jobs-first faction and progressive union members who are friendly to environmental concerns and count more people of color among their ranks.

Grist interviewed five staffers at the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press. Trumka’s public support for the pipeline caught these senior-level and mid-level staffers by surprise, they told Grist — especially because he had recently taken progressive positions on Black Lives Matter, immigration, and criminal justice.

A call to Trumka’s office was not returned. The federation’s policy director, Damon Silvers, who is said to have helped write the statement, also did not respond to an interview request.

Union opponents of the pipeline project and their advocates quickly responded on social media with satire. One post on Twitter likened Trumka’s position to helping the wrong side in Star Wars.

Other frustrated union members and staffers placed calls to Climate Workers, an organization of union workers focused on climate justice, to vent. Brooke Anderson, an organizer at the group, says she fielded dozens of calls from members upset about the AFL-CIO’s position.

Indigenous Resistance Deserves Workers' Solidarity

By Roger Butterfield - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, September 26, 2016

September 15th’s announcement that the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) supports the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) hardly came as a surprise to me, but it definitely didn’t lift my spirits about the present state of organized labor in the US. At a time when solidarity and support is needed for one of the most vibrant and powerful indigenous liberation movements of the decade, the federation asked itself “Which side are you on?”, and spoke its answer plainly: with business and its owners. Any organization committed to an egalitarian society (or the general survival of the human species, for that matter) would condemn the pipeline company’s attacks on indigenous protesters. Any genuine and s trong w orkers’ organization should call on the construction workers to withhold their labor, offer legal support to those that do, and provide what resources it could offer to supporting resistance to scabs and jail support for the protesters.

But the AFL-CIO is not a genuine workers’ organization, nor has it ever committed itself to egalitarianism. It has a long history of excluding workers from its unions (people of color, women, communists, unskilled laborers, and immigrants), only removing these barriers when the culture surrounding and internal to it faced sufficient challenge from workers and the courts. In recent times the federation supported construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, another environmental catastrophe that would cut through not only swathes of indigenous land, but provide very few long-term jobs for construction workers.

The organization’s behavior seems to be driven by a political orientation to securing better day to day working conditions for its already existing union members, without regard for a broader and long-term, liberatory social vision. “Social blindness” (IWW member Helen Keller’s phrase) to the devastation of both environment and persons is the only way federation president Richard Trumka can conceivably justify backing the construction of a pipeline. Opposition to the construction of a climate bomb being built over the graves of protestors’ ancestors is characterized as “hold[ing] union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay”.

When the federation does release documents detailing a strategy or a vision, they read like Democratic Party talking points. The AFL-CIO has attached itself to and merged with the center of the Democratic Party, becoming an appendage of an ever rightward-shifting parliamentary politics, hoping that electoral action in the form of legislation (eliminating Taft-Hartley, securing anti-discrimination protections for joining a union) will somehow stop or alleviate unions’ declining membership and create a labor rebirth. Or they believe that politicians like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will fight neoliberal cuts to public services and attacks on union rights, when their “opposition” mainly consists of an alternative public relations strategy for pursuing the policies that best serve business owners. This is more than a failed strategy for workers: it’s a reactionary one that abandons the workplace as a site of struggle and appeals to a more benevolent-sounding wing of the capitalist state.

In fact, the AFL-CIO is acting on the right wing of Obama: thanks to the pressure placed on the federal government to react to the indigenous coalition’s direct actions, the Obama administration has halted all construction on federal land (pending a review of environmental impacts), invited native leaders to formal talks to have a voice in modifying existing laws, and called on the pipeline company to pause construction. Federation President Richard Trumka is calling on the federal government to reverse that decision, and “allow construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline to continue.”

In other words, the labor establishment wants to reject the state’s management strategy for public dissent, and instead opt for a more naked form of exploitation of dispossessed people and their environment. This is not “pushing politicians” to adopt policies more beneficial to workers; it’s abandoning any meaningful commitment to the idea that “an injury to one is an injury to all”, and doing the work of business owners for them. As my friend Nick Walter helpfully commented, “This is because at the end of the day the mainstream unions really do believe that the source of wealth is business and commerce rather than the labour of working people.”

The North American working class, particularly the embattled indigenous resistance in North Dakota, deserves better than the bureaucratic and conservative AFL-CIO. It deserves a labor movement inclusive of all workers and exclusive of capitalists and their state’s security forces, one led by the workers themselves and willing to fight for day-to-day changes on the job and to build long-term revolutionary changes in society at large. It deserves a class unionism across all ethnic, racial, gendered, and national lines, ultimately seeking to abolish class society itself.

The IWW joins with prominent labor organizations (National Nurses United, New York State Nurses Association, Communication Workers of America, Amalgamated Transit Union, United Electrical Workers, ILWU Local 19, Oregon Public Employees Union/SEIU Local 503, California Faculty Association, Labor Coalition for Community Action, and National Writers Association/UAW Local 1891) in supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s efforts to oppose the pipeline. As rank and file workers, we must reject any business, union, or labor federation that calls for collusion with the interests of business and action against dispossessed indigenous people.

Beyond Rhetoric – What Does the “Just Transition” Mean for DAPL?

By Emily Llyn Williams - Climate Justice Project, September 20, 2016

Rob sat across the fire at Sacred Stone Camp from me, hands deep in his pockets against the deepening chill of the night. He was recounting the difficulties he had faced in his home state of North Dakota as an environmentalist while all his neighbors baulked at the term. Rob, you see, had come to Standing Rock, North Dakota, to support the local Sioux tribes in opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). As I pressed him more for what it was like where he was from and what people thought about the pipeline in the heavily oil-reliant North Dakotan economy, he finally professed that he wasn’t the best one to ask – his neighbors were reluctant to talk to him because he himself opposed the pipelines.

The idea was for DAPL to connect the newly burgeoning oil fields of North Dakota to an existing framework of pipelines in Illinois. Faced with the choice to truck it, transport it by train, or build a pipeline, Energy Transfer Partner decided the latter would be the most economical and, moreover, they claim, the most “environmental.” However, the term “environmental” has often been co-opted by companies and used to greenwash more dangerous practices. Indeed, environmentalists, farmers who live downstream, and the Sioux people at Standing Rock (just to name a few) insist that all pipelines break and the threat to the water of the Missouri river is too great to risk such a project.

To understand why such a project would be pursued, we need to think for a moment about the economy of North Dakota and, more specifically, about Rob’s neighbors. In 2006, the Bakken oil formation was discovered in North Dakota and capitalized upon. These reserves had remained untapped up to that moment; what changed was the invention of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or fracking). When the process of fracking was created, in conjunction with a greater desire to become as a country more energy independent, the Bakken formation turned to gold. The area was quickly spun into production and produced job after job – so many in fact that during the Great Recession, unemployment remained low in North Dakota [1]. However, in 2012, the oil boom peaked and turned to the downward end of the boom-and-bust cycle. With the global price of oil plummeting, the fields have become much less profitable and, in an economy so heavily reliant on the production of those oil fields, people have been hit hard financially [2]. While it won’t have any significant impact on the global price of oil, the DAPL pipeline represents for many North Dakotans a step towards bolstering the oil industry and, therefore, jobs. Energy Transfer Partners have been very good at selling this pipeline to the people of North Dakota as a glimmer of hope in an economy whose gold plating has been scraped off. Why should Rob’s neighbors care about water quality downstream or the impending doom of climate change to be faced by their grandchildren when they can’t find a job to put food on the table?

The cruel irony is that the pipeline is set to run through native lands—both on the Standing Rock reservation and off of it where the peoples’ ancestral and burial sites are found. Standing Rock has one of the highest poverty rates of any reservation in the continental United States. However, while the people of North Dakota who work in the oil fields are sold the dream that DAPL would bring economic success to them and their families, the people of Standing Rock have nothing to win from the construction of the pipeline. The Sioux were never consulted in the planning of DAPL, and would receive no economic benefit; moreover, their water source and lands that hold great cultural significance to them are threatened and would surely become degraded. These are not just probabilities, since some are already realities – in early September, the company bulldozed a huge Sioux burial site in preparation for laying pipe [3].

Naomi Klein’s term for lands and experiences such as these is “sacrifice zones” – zones in which the people and ecosystems are sacrificed and hidden away for the profit of others, or areas which bear the external costs of others’ practices. What the Sioux are making is an understandable plea – to protect the water and their homes. They call themselves “water protectors” and peacefully march and non-violently chain themselves to bulldozers with the eloquent message that “water is life.” In the midst of extreme poverty, loss of traditions across generations, and generally tough living conditions on the reservation, they remind others that you need water and can drink water, but you cannot drink oil.

Nonetheless, even as obvious as it is that water, not oil, is essential to life and therefore must be protected, we cannot ignore Rob’s neighbors’ concerns about their jobs. Water is life, but the oil workers of North Dakota are trying to support their lives too as best they can. Too often in conversations about climate justice and calls to keep fossil fuels in the ground, as activists we forget (or conveniently ignore) what it means for those whose livelihoods and sometimes family traditions are so bound up in maintaining the status quo. When we talk about the transition to a 100% renewable energy economy, we need to think about all those who stand to lose while the desired transition unfolds. The fossil fuel industry and climate change don’t care about peoples’ lives or the health of ecosystems; the climate justice movement, however, has a responsibility to do better and ensure that the transition is a just one and includes everyone.

An economy so heavily reliant on the extraction and transportation of oil is an unstable economy; witness the relentless boom-and-bust cycles of so many American towns. Rather than plummeting these economies into a permanent bust and expecting the workers to train themselves up for a new job in renewable energy 1000 miles away, we need to think about how to plan a transition with these workers at the decision-making table, right alongside the indigenous folks who are on the ground fighting the pipeline. Planning ahead for diverse and varied economic activities to take the place of an oil-driven economy, working on job training programs, and asking the workers what they need before the tap is shut off are just a few ways to ensure that they come along willingly and have a stake in what replaces a way of life that can no longer be sustained if humanity is to have a future.

The transition to a 100% renewable economy is already underway and is going to happen whether or not everyone is on board. The only questions are how quickly it happens, and whether it can be done in a way that brings Rob’s neighbors to the table instead of the self-appointed few that got us into this mess in the first place. 

GEO at UIUC Statement in Response to Richard Trumka’s Statement on the Dakota Access Pipeline

By Solidarity Committee - Graduate Employees Organization UIUC (IFT-AFT Local 6300 AFL-CIO), September 22, 2016

Last Thursday, September 15, 2016 AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued a statement: “The AFL-CIO calls on the Obama Administration to allow construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline to continue.” (Entire statement can be accessed here.) We, the Graduate Employees’ Organization at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—I.F.T./A.F.T. local 6300 AFL-CIO—are disappointed and appalled that the AFL-CIO’s highest leadership would make such a statement. Our sense of justice and solidarity compel us to publicly voice our opposition to Trumka’s statement. He does not speak for the entire AFL-CIO. He does not speak for us. We, the GEO-UIUC, stand in solidarity with Sacred Stone camp and the over 200 Indigenous Nations which have united to oppose construction of the DAPL.

Securing jobs with dignity is one front of class struggle. However, the extraction of fossil fuels, from Bakken oil in North Dakota to hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" in upstate New York, is leaving behind vast expanses of dead land and dead water around the globe. It is critical that we step outside our narrow interests and ask: Who will have jobs in a dead planet? In terms of fundamental needs, what is more important than clean water? As the land and water protectors of Sacred Stone camp say, “Water is Life”.

We call on the Obama administration, the AFL-CIO leadership, and the entire labor movement to respect Native sovereignty and the right of communities to safeguard their basic necessities against corporate exploitation. Trumka argues that the DAPL must be allowed because it creates jobs. We do not dispute that it creates temporary jobs. However, job creation must be paired with justice, otherwise working-class struggle morphs into working-class complicity in continuing settler colonialism. The United States government, and the businesses which will profit from construction of the DAPL, do not have the right to disrespect Native Sovereignty with the construction of this shameful pipeline. Nor can they guarantee the safety of the pipeline as seen from numerous pipeline leaks and spills around the world causing incalculable damages to millions: Kalamazoo River oil spill (2010), Alberta oil spill (2015), Alabama pipeline leak (2016), to name just a few. The labor movement must stand in solidarity with Native struggle against extraction (and contamination) that disproportionately impacts the disenfranchised and the marginalized. We call on AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka to rescind his appalling statement, and to instead stand in solidarity with the Indigenous-led movement against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Trumka and building trades leaders join bosses, support Dakota Pipeline

By Richard Mellior - Facts for Working People, September 22, 2016

In an article on its website, the liberal leaning Common Dreams has published a letter sent by Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions to the presidents of all the AFL-CIO. The letter condemns those unions that support the Standing Rock Sioux in their struggle to defend their sacred lands our environment. The article reads:

In the letter, McGarvey questions top leadership for not taking a firmer position in defense of the union members working on Dakota Access and calls out other AFL-CIO member unions—specifically the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the National Nurses United (NNU), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and the American Postal Workers Union (APWU)—for aligning with "environmental extremists" opposed to the pipeline and participating in a "misinformation campaign" alongside "professional agitators" and members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

The letter condemns the other unions and the AFL-CIO for not defending the 4500 workers who will lose their jobs if the project is halted. This horror that stopping the pipeline represents for the heads of the building trades is not unlike the horror it represents to the capitalists and investors who hope to profit from it: “Should the administration ultimately stop this construction, it would set a horrific precedent,” I quoted one leader of a pro-pipeline coalition as saying in an earlier commentary.

It's not just that the stifling bureaucracy that heads organized labor doesn't care about climate change, they don't care about their own members or workers in general. The trade unions to these leaders, especially those in the building trades, are employment agencies with them as the CEO's. They are protecting a smaller and smaller dues base that will keep them in their positions and preserve the relationships they have built with the bosses and the corporations based on labor peace.

They are junior partners alongside the developers, energy companies and other huge industries in making capitalism work, keeping profits sacrosanct and flowing in to the coffers of the rich. It is not simply a matter of disrespecting sacred or sovereignty of Native Americans whose culture was almost wiped out as capitalism spread across this continent in the wake of a racist genocidal war. The only thing sacred for the ruling class in this country is profits. The only reason that capitalists hire workers is they have to as profit comes from the unpaid labor of the working class. It is created though the labor process as workers are paid less in wages than the value the use of their labor power creates.

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