keystone xl

Unions Speak out Against Senate Rejection of KXL

By JT Haines, November 20, 2014

The Washington Examiner is reporting that certain of the major labor unions and leaders — including Laborers’ Int’l Union of North America, AFL-CIO Building and Trades, and Teamsters — have spoken out against the US Senate rejection of #KeystoneXL, with LIUNA calling it a “vote against all construction workers.” [Washington Examiner]

LIUNA’s position is similar to its position expressed last March in Minnesota in favor of a proposed Enbridge Sandpiper pipeline expansion, which pipeline terminates in the Duluth/Superior Twin Ports. (For excerpts from LIUNA’s spokesperson at that conference, see my post here. )

The stance is also similar to what we’ve seen from numerous, but not all, labor groups in Minnesota with regard to the PolyMet and Twin Metals sulfide mining proposals, which I’ve also written about on numerous occasions on this site.

Pipeline and copper mine proposals are obviously a huge deal in Minnesota right now, and organized labor is a vocal part of the conversation. I’m not an expert on internal union politics or the important differences between labor organizations on these issues, but as I wrote previously, my view of (certain aspects) of organized labor has taken a major hit as I observe what I consider to be a narrow, and often self-satisfied, outlook on some really complicated larger issues that affect us all. I think it’s time for unions to update their constituencies and long-term outlook. Ditch the old narrative and start work on a new one that once again considers society, not just “jobs.”

It will be interesting to see if unions can lead the way on environmental issues with a narrative that is fit for the times.

Post script — Just a quick reminder about what we’re up against, this from a facebook exchange I found myself in today about this issue: “One [the pipeline] has nothing to do with the other [climate change and toxicity]. The organic oil our Mother the Earth provides us with will be bought from the ground regardless of the pipeline. The organic oil our Mother the Earth provides us with will be used by mankind to improve it’s [sic] way of life. That will all happen regardless of the improved safety, improved connivance, improved employment and energy independence the pipeline will bring.” Hazaa.

State Dept Recalls Second Grade, Invokes the “Well they were going to do it anyway” Rationale.

Northfield MN Feb 3 #NoKXL Vigil, photo credit Credo Action

Northfield MN Feb 3 #NoKXL Vigil, photo credit Credo Action

On Friday the US State Department released a final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for TransCanada Corp’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Tonight, #NoKXL vigils were held around the country, calling on President Obama to reject the pipeline.

According to NPR’s story Saturday, “the State Department report finds that even if the Keystone XL is not built, it’s likely that producers would find another way to sell their oil. That’s how the State Department concludes the pipeline would not contribute significantly to carbon pollution.”

In other news, Logic and Ethics professors everywhere were heard vomiting into their computers. TransCanada Corp., for its part, is “very pleased with the release.”

Showing Up (at the Keystone XL Rally)

By JT Haines, February 20, 2013

I went to 350.org’s Forward on Climate Rally in Washington DC on Sunday, the stated goal of which was to demand action from the White House on climate change and to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Yes to both! The pipeline is a disaster, and another glaring opportunity to start in earnest the magnificent course correct this moment requires. Taking that truth to be, as I do, overwhelmingly self-evident, this post is rather about reaction to the event.photo (2)

Predictably, it was met with a certain amount of criticism, including from folks who otherwise agree with the goals. Michael Swanson at warisacrime.org counts himself among the underwhelmed. To him, the rally was “packaged as a belated campaign event” and should have “simply demanded the protection of our climate.” (I don’t agree that it was the former, or that it did not do the latter, but I do share some of his concerns.) Here’s a sampling of some other criticisms: It was not “Gandhian” enough. It was too phony, or too partisan. It wasn’t disobedient enough. We should be protesting militarism instead. There weren’t enough people there (350.org asserts 40,000). Too few news outlets were covering the event. The President wasn’t even in town. (He was, according to HuffPo, playing golf with Tiger and “oil men.”)

Each of these concerns merits discussion. After all, whatever we choose to do or not do, we’re expending time, money and energy. And for my part, I certainly have moments — perhaps while plodding along a pre-approved march route with someone screaming “this is what democracy looks like” in my ear as if that’s doing much other than making it harder to enjoy participating in same — when I consider whether it’s worth it, or whether it will amount to anything more than a hill of beans.

That said, my thinking on this day was, I’m going to go stand with several thousand people (or as Casey Camp from the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma put it, her relatives…which I love) and demand action on climate change from a guy who was at that moment golfing, whatever the result. Would my time have been better spent volunteering somewhere, or staging a one-man sit-in on the street corner, or even resting up on the couch for the next one, or for nothing at all? Except for that last bit, I honestly don’t claim to know. Maybe, after some further discussion, a better option will present itself. And it’s clearly important to at least be aware of our own limits. But on this particular day, this is what I did, and that’s sort of that.

One day I asked my friend Joel — one of the more effective Battle-Ax Boomers I know — about his general approach, and he said, “I keep showing up.”

Indeed.

Post-script: I’d be remiss to not also mention that, while not perfect, the event was still quite good. And some of the speeches — especially from the First Nation and tribal elders — were excellent. Here’s a sampling of additional coverage from Salon, the Nation (which, unlike others, actually grasped the nuance of the re-appropriated campaign slogan and logo), Truthdig, Democracy Now, and War is a Crime. And here’s an article from my bus friends, in Westchester New York’s Rivertowns Patch.

Feb 17 Rally (photo credit Len Tsou from the Westchester Bus)

Feb 17 Rally (photo credit Len Tsou from the Westchester Bus)