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Resolution Against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Resolution passed by Railroad Workers United - November 2, 2016

Whereas, the  unprecedented  $3.78  Billion,  1,172-mile  Dakota  Access  Pipeline would carry over half a million barrels of dirty crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in  North  Dakota,  through  South  Dakota  and  Iowa  to  Illinois  to  connect  to  other pipelines bringing oil to the East Coast and the Gulf; and

Whereas, the  pipeline  is slated to pass through the tribal lands of Standing Rock Sioux  near  Cannon  Ball,  North  Dakota,  and  underneath  the  Missouri  River,  the main source of water for the tribe; and

Whereas, the  pipeline  is  slated  to  pass  under  the  Missouri  River  a  second  time before  passing  under  the  Mississippi  River,  a  total  watershed  coving  40%  of  the continental United States; and

Whereas, the pipeline has already disturbed the lives of millions of Americans; and

Whereas, millions  of  workers--including  many  union  members  and  their  their families--live in communities that are in thepath of the proposed pipeline; and

Whereas, the transport of heavy crude is particularly volatile, leading to 18.4 million gallons of oils and chemicals spilled, leaked, or released into the air, land, and waterways  between  2006  and  2014  in  North  Dakota  alone,  causing  death,  contamination of soil and water, and numerous types of disease; and

Whereas, scientists  have  warned  that  in  order  to  avoid  wide-scale,  catastrophic climate disruption, the vast majority of known remaining fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground; and

Whereas, people  engaged  in  protecting  their  land  and  water  have  been  brutally attacked by private security forces in both Iowa and North Dakota; and

Whereas, Native  Americans  and  other  activists  defending  their  land  and  water have  the  same  right  to  defend  their  land  and  engage  in  non-violent  protest  as workers who are protesting the actions of an unfair employer; and

Whereas, the  U.S.  Congress  has  repealed  the  ban  on  exporting  oil,  meaning  that the oil transported by the pipeline is likely to be sold overseas and not contribute to US energy independence; and

Whereas, we know that a very real threat to workers’ lives and livelihoods is the prospect of catastrophic climate change; and

Whereas pipelines  accidents,  such  as  the  recent  Helena,  Alabama  gas  pipeline explosion  which  killed  one  and  injured  five,  pose  a  threat  to  workers  and  their communities; and

Whereas, many  large  corporations,  and  especially  fossil  fuel  corporations,  have been  putting  profits  ahead  of  the  common  good  of  workers,  the  public,  and  the environment, and these corporations have been unjustly granted the constitutional  rights  and  powers of “person-hood”, diminishing  democracy and  the  voice  and power of the people; and

Whereas, numerous national and international unions have already passed resolutions against construction of the pipeline, including National Nurses United, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Communications Workers of America, the United Electrical Workers, Service Employees International Union, and others; and

Whereas, these unions have an economic, environmental and racial justice strategy which has been employed to win membership strikes through broad base support by non-unionized workers and community members; and

Whereas, unions  in  support  of  Standing  Rock,  and  against  the  Dakota  Access  Pipeline  have  come  under  attack from reactionary unions who have engaged in the bad practice of collaborating with bosses, such as the virulently anti-union Koch Brothers; and

Whereas, Railroad  Workers  United  is  already  on  record  supporting  the  development  of  a  just  transition  plan  for

workers affected by fossil fuel elimination; and

Whereas, more long-term good paying jobs would be created by investing in sustainable energy infrastructure projects using already existing technologies while at the same time reducing greenhouse gases; and

Whereas, we support the rights of our union brothers and sisters building the pipeline to work in safe environments at jobs that are consistent with respect for the environment and the rights and safety of frontline communities;

Therefore Be  it Resolved, that we call upon the Federal Government to  make permanent the moratorium  on  construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline by revoking permits for construction issued by the Army Corps of Engineers; and

Be it Further Resolved, that Railroad Workers United calls on the labor movement to support a just transition to a renewable energy  economy  and  investment  in  the  construction  of a  nationwide sustainable energy  infrastructure that will address the growing threat of climate change and its consequent droughts, floods, fire, crop failure, species extinction and other dire consequences of global warming;

Be it Finally Resolved, Railroad Workers United urges all railroad craft unions and the rest of the labor movement to become actively involved in promoting a just transition to a sustainable alternative energy economy that protects the  environment and respects  the rights of all working people to good paying safe  jobs, human  rights and justice for all.

Registered Nurse Response Network Sends Nurse Volunteers on Second Deployment to Standing Rock

By Charles Idelson - National Nurses United, November 7, 2016

National Nurses United (NNU)’s Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), a national network of volunteer nurses, will deploy a second team of RN volunteers to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation—to help with existing medical and first aid support for land and water protectors—NNU announced today.

“As a nurse, I understand the necessity of preserving and protecting our water. Water equals life, and the Dakota Access pipeline threatens the health and well being of millions of Americans,” said RNRN volunteer Amy Bowen, RN, who traveled to Standing Rock in October and will return again this month. “Nurses honor the sacrifices being made by the water protectors while they stand up for what is right, against corporate greed.”

RNRN volunteers will assist medic tents at the North/Oceti Sakowin and Sacred Stone camps. RNRN is also working with local partners to establish the Mni Wiconi (Water is Life) clinic to meet the ongoing healthcare needs of the Standing Rock Sioux community and the water protectors. Donations for the Mni Wiconi clinic can be made here: https://crowdfund.ucsf.edu/project/2913/updates/1

NNU has released several statements of solidarity with the standing Rock Sioux tribe and fellow water protectors, who, for months, have sought to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which nurses say poses great risk to public health. The nurses’ latest statement sharply condemns the violent attacks on protectors.

“This has become a seminal battle over the First Amendment protection of public protest. It is also a challenge for everyone who is concerned about the rights of First Nation people and their sacred sites and water sources, as well as the threat the pipeline poses to environmental degradation, public health, and to accelerating the climate crisis,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN.

“It is long past time to call into question all these dangerous pipeline projects that have become increasingly common, generally with far less public notice than the Dakota Access pipeline, or the similar successful campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline, has garnered. These projects pose a continual threat to public health from the extraction process through the transport to the refinery.”

Pipelines have proven to leak, including the recent Colonial Pipeline leak in Alabama and subsequent explosion at a second site. Nurses say spills from ruptured pipelines that contaminate water supplies can lead to numerous problems of respiratory ailments and other health symptoms associated with the spills.

RNRN Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, says nurses will continue to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock and condemn the violence committed against water protectors—with reports that clearly identified medics have also been attacked and arrested.

“Nurses will stand with the protectors at Standing Rock, and with our fellow caregivers, the medics — to say that DAPL is bad for public health, and those enforcing its construction cannot speak to its safety while simultaneously targeting for attack the very people with the power to heal,” said Castillo.

"As a registered nurse, it was a profoundly moving and humbling experience to live with and serve the water and land protectors at the Sacred Stone encampment on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation,” said DeAnn McEwan, who volunteered at Standing Rock in October. “Nurses feel a moral commitment to lend our skills and do whatever we can do to help protect and promote their health and right to the fresh, pure water that sustains all our lives." 

RNRN is powered by NNU, the largest organization of registered nurses in the U.S.

National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.

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.

LIUNA Local passes message of support for Standing Rock

By Richard Mellor - Facts for Working People, November 6, 2016

Facts For Working People shares the following statement of support from a union for the Standing Rock fighters.  The union member raised this issue in her local union and it was voted on and approved. While it is important for individual union activists to support the struggle in North Dakota it is crucial that we take this issue up in the workplaces and the union hall. Messages have more strength when they come from our local organization.

What is as important even if one’s attempts to get a local union to pass a resolution or write a statement in support, loses as vote, is that a debate takes place, positions are taken and the sides have to be heard. This helps workers understand the issues, some will change their mind, some won’t, at least not immediately, but consciousness will be raised and the union and all workers will benefit from it win or lose the argument on the day. A leadership that is opposed to an issue is also forced to openly defend their position rather than avoid debate entirely. Ask your relatives, neighbors and friends if they are in a union and if they are ask them to introduce a message or resolution in support of Standing Rock. You can even help write it.

Thank you sister for your efforts.

From Chaous Riddle LIUNA City of Madison local 236

Brothers and sisters in Madison Wisconsin are aware that the City of Madison has passed a resolution to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock against the pipeline. Most also know that one of our alders was arrested there.

I brought it up in my union, LIUNA* local 236 when I got an invite to stand with other unions there. I wrote and introduced the statement below. The membership voted unanimously to stand with Standing Rock against our own organization. They understood that we were going against the LIUNNA International leadership’s position and knew we would feel repercussions from this stance. They then took a vote and unanimously voted to send me as their ambassador with our message of solidarity.

Below is the statement from LIUNA 236 in Madison Wisconsin in solidarity with Standing Rock

A statement by City of Madison LIUNA local 236

We at LIUNA local 236 feel the need to take a stance on the issue. We know many unions are for the pipeline and just as many are against it. Due to how our city is situated between several large bodies of water that is a part of the Mississippi watershed we strive as a whole to keep our lakes clean.

Because of the nature of our job we know that unlike air, water is a closed loop. What we have is all we get. Our lakes provide untold amounts of recreation along with what comes out of our taps. It must remain clean. The city government has worked with the indigenous tribes here to try and preserve their heritage. As a diversified group we also understand wanting and keeping a heritage. We feel there would be more and better sustainable jobs if we invested in other types of energy that were not fraught with so many accidents. We stand proudly and in solidarity with the city of Madison, her citizens and the people of Standing Rock against the pipeline. After all, this is Madison. 

Thank you City of Madison LIUNA  local 23

At the time I and my union were under the impression that we would not be the only local there however we had a feeling we would be the only LIUNA local.

After I got there I found out it was individuals and not actual locals. I stood up anyhow because my union knew we would be the only LIUNA local. My union wants to do the right thing and what we were hoping for was that other LIUNA locals would follow us. We might be small but we have no fear and that makes us mighty!

Because I am LIUNA I was at first was met with suspicion and hostility. However once they found out why I was there I was received with open arms.

Nurses Condemn Attacks on Water Protectors Opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline Project

By staff - National Nurses United, October 27, 2016

National Nurses United today sharply condemned police and armed guard attacks on members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, other First Nations, environmental activists, and other protectors who have bravely participated in protests against the Dakota Access pipeline project.

Reports of police using pepper spray, military grade equipment, and other military style tactics follow physical attacks on protesters by armed security guards who have who have used dogs in ways reminiscent of assaults on peaceful protesters during the Civil Rights movement, as well as arrests of media covering the protests.

“This has become a seminal battle over the First Amendment protection of public protest. It is also a challenge for everyone who is concerned about the rights of First Nation people and their sacred sites and water sources, as well as the threat the pipeline poses to environmental degradation, public health, and to accelerating the climate crisis,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN.

NNU, through its Registered Nurse Response Network, a national network of volunteer RNs, has deployed nurse volunteers to assist with first aid needs for the land and water protectors. NNU remains committed to continuing that program in support of the DAPL protests as needed, said Ross.

“We are proud of those who are raising their voices for all of us. We are gratified to see the many public figures, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, who have stood with the Standing Rock Sioux and other protectors, as well as our union brothers and sisters in the Communications Workers of America, Amalgamated Transit Union, American Postal Workers Union, and Service Employees International Union who have also expressed solidarity for this historic fight,” Ross added.

NNU voiced its support for the protectors in early September, and also challenged claims that pipelines are a way to ensure safety of the transport of dirty, polluting crude oil.

“Contrary to claims of supporters, pipeline transportation of this volatile oil is far from safe. We have already witnessed many examples of pipeline spills from ruptured pipelines that have contaminated water supplies and led to numerous problems of respiratory ailments and other health symptoms associated with the spills,” Ross said.

We can have good jobs and healthy communities

By SEIU Healthcare Minnesota’s Indian Healthcare Board* - Medium, October 28, 2016

In too many communities across our country, children and families suffer from exorbitant asthma rates and other respiratory ailments from air pollution caused by corporate activities that burn fossil fuels and contaminate our air. Toxins leeched into our drinking and bathing water from this same fossil fuel industry causes serious skin, digestive, and even cancerous impacts on young and old alike. As healthcare workers, we stand on the front lines of trying to help families deal with these life-altering impacts.

Our families and children deserve clean air and water and we must do all that we can to stop allowing corporations to corrupt our livelihood unchecked. Where possible, we must choose clean alternative options so that our economy and our families can thrive. It is not a one or the other choice. We can have good jobs and healthy communities by shifting away from an economy dependent on fossil fuels to one that creates jobs for workers through a just transition to a clean energy economy.

We can and must be the change we want to see in the world and we have the chance to do it right now. In North and South Dakota, construction of a crude-oil pipeline, known as the Dakota Access Pipeline, threatens the lives and livelihoods of the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The pipeline would pass under the Missouri River (at Lake Oahe) which is just half a mile upstream from the boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation and provides their drinking water.

Over the last three years there have been over 200 known pipeline leaks in the United States. A spill at this site would be a health, economic and cultural catastrophe for Standing Rock Sioux families. Further, the pipeline would pass through incredibly precious culturally significant sacred lands, like burial grounds, for the tribe and infringe on their freedom to practice and protect their culture and beliefs.

We are so proud that our union, the Service Employees International Union, along with other labor unions, didn’t stand idly by and let this injustice prevail. Instead SEIU along with like-minded good jobs and justice-focused partners have stood strong with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

Not only do the Standing Rock Sioux deserve the respect and protection of their sacred grounds, but they deserve to know the water they are drinking is uncontaminated and safe. This is yet another instance where a low income, community of color is subjected to contamination at the hands of powerful corporations and an unresponsive government. It’s a scenario that’s all too familiar to SEIU members, having struggled through the water crisis in Flint, MI and the recent flooding in Baton Rouge.

We stand with our union and the people of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, as well as the thousands of others who could be harmed by the construction of the pipeline. As energy technology and transportation infrastructures change to reduce harmful emissions, so should the focus of the unions that fight for a better future for all families. We can let go of environmentally and racially unjust practices and look to create the good jobs and safe communities of the future.

From asthma to cancer, America’s workers suffer at the hands of big polluters. We have a choice. We can find a solution that protects people’s health and good jobs and wages. The time is now. Our government must stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, protect the interests of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and transition the jobs of those whose lives and livelihoods could be impacted by ending this pipeline to good family-sustaining jobs of the future.

Berkeley Protest of Arrests at Standing Rock

Rank-and-File Union Members Join Standing Rock Camp, As Crackdown on Opponents of Pipeline Escalates

By Micheal Letwin and Cliff Willmeng - Labor for Standing Rock, October 27, 2016

Editor's note: IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus cofounder, Steve Ongerth, is also a cofounder of Labor for Standing Rock.

On Saturday, October 29 at 10 AM, union members and supporters are assembling at Standing Rock Union Camp, north of Cannonball, North Dakota. Despite escalating police violence and AFL-CIO leadership support of the Dakota Access Pipeline, pipeline, a delegation of union members from around the U.S. are, at this moment, assembling with signs and banners for a labor procession at Standing Rock camp to join Sioux Water Protectors against Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL.) The procession will be followed by a lunchtime organizing meeting, and by afternoon outreach to pipeline workers, by a delegation from Labor For Standing Rock, comprised of rank-and-file union members and working people.

This effort is being spearheaded by Labor for Standing Rock co-founders Michael Letwin and Cliff Willmeng. Letwin, a former President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325 in New York City, and Co-Convener of Labor for Palestine, whose online petition in opposition to DAPL has garnered more than 12,000 signers and helped lay the basis for Labor for Standing Rock. In 1973, at age sixteen, he and others were by the Nixon-era FBI under the Rap Brown Act for participating in a relief caravan to the American Indian Movement occupation at Wounded Knee. Willmeng is 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 fracking in 2013. He and his daughter Sasha delivered water tanks to Standing Rock Camp after authorities removed the water supply in August.

Labor For Standing Rock was 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.

"As a healthcare provider, as a father of two, and as a union member I will be heading up to Standing Rock, said Cliff Willmeng, union member and a co-founder of Labor for Standing Rock. "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."

"Workers' rights are inseparable from indigenous rights, said Michael Letwin, union member and a co-founder of Labor for Standing Rock. "We need decent union jobs that protect, rather than destroy, the Earth -- there are no jobs on a dead planet."

"We at Oceti Sakowin Camp welcome 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."

Labor for Standing Rock and Union Camp are being hosted by Red Warrior Camp, which is made up of Dakota and Lakota people residing within the original Sacred Stone spirit camp on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

‘Get A Life’: Clinton Bashed Anti-Fracking Activists During Private Labor Meeting

By Kevin Gosztola - Shadow Proof, October 15, 2016

At a private meeting with the Building Trades Council, Hillary Clinton bashed environmentalists who oppose natural gas fracking and insist the United States must keep all fossil fuels in the ground. She said these environmentalists need to “get a life.”

A transcript of a part of the meeting, which took place on September 9, 2015, was published by WikiLeaks. It was attached to an email from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s account, which he claims was hacked.

Clinton met with the Building Trades Council, which is part of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU). She sought their endorsement, however, she wanted to be clear about what she was willing to support in the way of new pipeline construction. The labor organization is very pro-pipeline because its members work on pipelines.

“Bernie Sanders is getting lots of support from the most radical environmentalists because he’s out there every day bashing the Keystone pipeline,” Clinton stated. “And, you know, I’m not into it for that.”

“My view is I want to defend natural gas. I want to defend repairing and building the pipelines we need to fuel our economy. I want to defend fracking under the right circumstances,” Clinton added. She made it clear she was willing to defend new, modern energy sources.

Then, on environmentalists, Clinton shared, “I’m already at odds with the most organized and wildest. They come to my rallies and they yell at me and, you know, all the rest of it. They say, ‘Will you promise never to take any fossil fuels out of the earth ever again?’ No. I won’t promise that. Get a life, you know.”

The Standing Rock Split

By Trish Kahle - Jacobin, October 19, 2016

The leadership of the AFL-CIO seems determined to meet the indigenous rebellion at Standing Rock with the most parochial view of trade unionism it can muster.

After Sean McGarvey, president of the building trades, sent a letter declaring those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline “environmental extremists” and “professional agitators,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka quickly followed up with a statement defending the pipeline and lashing out at protesters for “hold[ing] union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay.” Trying to block each new pipeline, he concluded, was neither an “effective” way to set climate policy nor fair to the workers caught in the middle.

In doing so, Trumka and his ilk have advanced a jobs-versus-planet trope that, however common, is a manufactured falsehood. Accepting his and the building trades’ argument that pipeline construction “provides quality jobs to tens of thousands of skilled workers” prevents us from asking key questions not just about climate change, but about the wellbeing of those skilled workers: how long will these workers be employed? How safe will their workplaces be? What kinds of communities will they live in? And how will their work impact their long-term health?

Construction work is, by its very nature, temporary. On this basis, LiUNA president Terry O’Sullivan has stridently criticized people who have questioned the sustainability of pipeline construction as an employment source. “In our business we go from one temporary job to another temporary job,” O’Sullivan explained last year at an American Petroleum Institute event, “and we string enough temporary jobs together and build proud structures as we do it to create a career.”

But oil pipeline work is its own kind of temporary. Even if we wanted to dredge up every drop of oil from the earth, even if we wanted to build every pipeline possible — and we can’t do either one — an unsustainable industry can’t produce sustainable, lasting careers. And in the meantime, each new method of extraction and transportation introduces new forms of accidents and new fatal risks. Heeding O’Sullivan’s call for unabated pipeline construction would mean continuing to sacrifice workers’ lives on the altar of the fossil-fuel industry.

You wouldn’t know it from O’Sullivan’s histrionic statements, but the volatile compounds workers dig up and ship are far more dangerous than any anti-pipeline protest. Workers in the building trades are nearly three times more likely to die on the job than the average American worker — and that figure is on the rise. In 2014, 874 construction workers were killed on the job — a 5.6 percent increase over the previous year, and the highest number since 2008. Extractive industries are even more lethal: workers in that sector die nearly five times more often than other workers.

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