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Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA)

Open Letter: Laborer Challenges Union Support of Fossil Fuel Export Projects

By Tim Norgren  - Portland Rising Tide, October 5, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following is an open letter from  union member Tim Norgren to Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). Read on as Tim explains why union support of fossil fuel export projects is short-sighted and generally not in the best interest of workers. 

Dear LIUNA and Fellow Workers,

In joining forces with avowed union enemies to lobby for export projects like coal and bitumen/oil terminals and pipelines, which would create some short term, but VERY FEW long term local jobs, I strongly feel we’re selling ourselves out, along with every worker in America!

The propositions stand to benefit billionaires like the Koch brothers and other members of ALEC, which as you know are behind state by state attacks on worker’s rights via campaigns like the “right to work” bill recently pushed in OR (see www.alecexposed.org for more).

Export proponents Arch and Peabody coal (ALEC members) were featured in the Labor Press last summer for shifting pensions worth over $1.3 BILLION (owed to some 20,000 beneficiaries) to a shell company- then bankrupting it, leaving retirees destitute. This “success” opened the door for Detroit to become the first city to declare bankruptcy and default on pensions. Scrutiny showed this to be an ALEC “model” scheme. Supporting companies which commit such crimes against dedicated workers is UNACCEPTABLE for anyone who purports to be part of a labor movement!

According to Greg Palast (investigative reporter for the BBC), the Koch brothers stand to save about $26 a barrel bringing in the oil from the Keystone XL instead of from H. Chavez in Venezuela. The Koch’s Houston refineries are designed to refine only the high carbon tar sands oil available from those sources and cannot even process the lighter Texas crude. $26 a barrel would add up to a lot more ammo in their union-busting arsenal.

Should proposals succeed, then when our job’s over, coal will continue being extracted from public lands, with mainly non-union miners and huge federal subsidies (taxpayer expense) in obscenely higher quantities than now, then carted though our neighborhoods alongside explosive fracked oil tankers. Tar sands oil will keep flowing into Koch Industries refineries. And while NOT keeping us working, it WILL continue to profit enemies of labor (fueling their next campaigns) as it’s shipped to Asia, providing cheap fuel for deathtrap factories where subsistence workers slave at jobs outsourced from living wage employment in America!

Indeed as industrial and other jobs are replaced with government subsidized resource extraction and privatization schemes, across the board from fossil fuels and lumber to such basic staples as water and social services, we can see in our mirror a third world nation.

In my humble opinion as a member of LIUNA, pursuing these proposals rather than insisting on cleaner, more labor-friendly energy and transmission projects IS SUICIDE! Are we truly willing to follow the short-term carrot on a stick, like an ass to the slaughter? To feed ourselves willingly to those who would destroy us? Or do enough of us still have the conscience, guts and faith to stand up with those who’ve struggled at such cost to give us rights as workers?

Sincerely,

Tim Norgren, Laborers Local 320

If Not Now, When? A Labor Movement Plan to Address Climate Change

By Jeremy Brecher, Ron Blackwell, and Joe Uehlein - New Labor Forum, September 2014

We are on a climate change path that, unless radically altered, will lead to an unsustainable global warming of seven degrees Fahrenheit or greater. We also face the most serious employment crisis since the Great Depression, with wages that have stagnated for four decades and economic inequality now at levels not seen since the 1920s.

Many leaders and activists at different levels of the labor movement recognize the challenges we face in creating a more just and sustainable economy. A few unions have supported strong climate protection policies and have actively participated in the climate protection movement; many have stood aloof; a minority have feared their members’ jobs are threatened by some climate protection measures. Organized labor’s approach to climate change has been primarily employment-based. Unions like green jobs, but they fear the potential job losses from phasing out carbon-fueled industries. This should not be surprising because unions are organized primarily to look after the specific employment interests of workers. Even the most far-sighted trade union leaders have a very difficult job: They must represent the immediate interests of existing members, some of whom may face job losses in the transition to a low carbon economy, while keeping in mind the longer term social and ecological concerns.

The AFL-CIO and most unions have failed to endorse the basic targets and timetables that climate scientists have defined as necessary to pre- vent devastating global warming. They have promoted an “all of the above” energy policy that supports growth rather than reduction in the fossil fuels that are responsible for global warming. Although they have supported some climate legislation, they have opposed most policies that would actually begin cutting back on fossil fuel emissions. And they have fought climate action designed to block major carbon threats like coal-fired power plants and the Keystone XL pipeline.

Download the complete report (PDF) here.

The Keystone Pipeline Debate: An Alternative Job Creation Strategy

By Kristen Sheeran, Noah Enelow, Jeremy Brecher, and Brendan Smith - Economics for Equity and the Environment and Labor Network for Sustainably, November 5, 2013

The Keystone XL pipeline has been touted as a means to address America's jobs crisis. But how does its job creation compare to other possible projects?

This study compares the jobs that would be created by the KXL pipeline to the jobs that could be created by water, sewer, and gas infrastructure projects in the five states the pipeline crosses.

It finds that meeting unmet water and gas infrastructure needs in the five relevant states along the KXL pipeline route will create:

  • More than 300,000 total jobs across all sectors;
  • Five times more jobs, and better jobs, than KXL;
  • 156% of the number of direct jobs created by Keystone XL per unit of investment.
  • President Barack Obama and others have criticized the KXL pipeline for its meager promise of 50 to 100 longer‐ term jobs. In contrast, water infrastructure operation and maintenance in the five relevant states alone will create 137 times as many direct long‐term jobs, and over 95 times more total long‐term jobs, than Keystone XL.

Proponents of KXL maintain it will be built by private investment without public subsidy. But the oil refineries that will use KXL oil, along with the rest of the oil industry, receive large government subsidies. All of the infrastructure work described in this study can be financed just by closing three Federal tax loopholes for fossil fuel companies. Indeed, taking just one tax subsidy now received by the refineries that would use KXL oil and using it instead for water infrastructure would create as many jobs as the KXL pipeline.

Download the complete report (PDF) here.

Pipe dreams? Jobs Gained, Jobs Lost by the Construction of Keystone XL a report by Cornell University Global Labor Institute

By Ian Goodman and Brigid Rowan - Cornell University Global Labor Institute, September 2011

The purpose of this briefing paper is to examine claims made by TransCanada Corporation and the American Petroleum Institute that, if constructed, TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline will generate enough employment to kick-start important sections of the US economy through the creation of tens of thousands—perhaps even hundreds of thousands—of good, well-paying jobs for American workers.

This briefing paper raises a number of questions regarding the jobs claims promoted by the industry, questions that are serious enough to generate a high level of skepticism regarding the value of KXL as an important source of American jobs. With national unemployment levels presently (September 2011) around 9%, and the real unemployment figures considerably higher, jobs are desperately needed both to sustain families and to help the broader economy. However, it is our assessment—based on the publicly available data—that the construction of KXL will create far fewer jobs in the US than its proponents have claimed and may actually destroy more jobs than it generates.

The results presented below should also cast doubt on the recent claim made by American Petroleum Institute that the oil industry could create more than a million jobs over the next decade—if the US government would open public lands, beaches, oceans, to unlimited oil drilling. If the industry’s jobs estimates made in the context of KXL are any indication, then this broader claim should be scrutinized very carefully indeed.

Read the report (PDF).

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