Thursday, September 22, 2016

RE: [CCDS Members] AFL-CIO Backs Dakota Access Pipeline and the “Family Supporting Jobs” It Provides

I typically do not get involved into these discussions but since I have decided to I somewhat agree with John Case in his great oration. He understands this better than I will try at this time since we are fighting a local enemy who wants to eliminate our lives. I will say this that President Trumka is responsible to respond or support approximately 12 million workers and 57 International Presidents. He has 57 direct bosses. I believe that he is a true fighter and defends this issue and others with dignity and respect. The Building Trades, which I am from, are not just into it for the money but they fight every day to put food on their table, take care of their kids and spouse while many times spend many days on the road doing such. I have done so myself and would not trade my experience for the world. The true enemy in this issue is the greedy oil and gas companies. I appreciate John and JB and hope they continue to keep me informed and educated until the time comes for us to report to our maker.



From: John Case []
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2016 6:11 AM
To: John Christensen <>
Cc: Gary Hicks <>; Socialist Economics <>; Blogger Socialist Economics <>; CCDS-Members <>; Eastern Panhandle Central Labor Council, Ken Collinson <>; Kenny Perdue <>
Subject: Re: [CCDS Members] AFL-CIO Backs Dakota Access Pipeline and the "Family Supporting Jobs" It Provides


Its above my pay grade to judge whether TRUMKA should have been involved directly. However I cannot imagine a building trades local that can buy into boycotting a 4500 worker job at  union rates. I also don't buy equating a pipeline with a concentration camp. For those feet-firmly-planted-in-mid-air folks who have forgotten to look down: this IS an overwhelmingly capitalist economy. That is an objective reality that does not get willed away by command. That means that virtually EVERYONE must obtain the means of life from commodities, all of which have a price. Labor too: the business of unions in a commodity economy is a STRUGGLE, first, to sell labor at a FAIR price; second, failing the first, to expand public goods. There are many other issues besides money in the labor movement, but money (the only way to obtain the means of life) is ALWAYS,  both historically and in present time,  fundamental, and almost always, the first consideration before all others. Socialists and others in the labor movement who are tempted to indulge in questions "more fundamental" than money may be "right" in some moral, or philosophical, longer range historical, or even scientific context. But if they have no traction in the real economy, if they are disconnected from the daily struggle to obtain the means of life, and a fairer division of wealth in an economy where wealth -- and poverty -- are defined by access, or lack of it, to commodities, the other questions have great difficulty winning sustained change. Dr King's steady evolution and concentration on linking  the concrete moral and class aspects of the struggle for equality and against segregation and racism are a near perfect demonstration of this principle.


I agree with JB that the right approach is to address BOTH sides of the economic issues involved in DAPL. 


First: the Sioux Nation reservations in the Dakotas are among the most impoverished communities in the nation. Staggering unemployment, and all the curses of unending economic depression. They have, or should have, by treaty the right to accept or refuse the pipeline across their land, or to leverage that right to lift up their community as well. 


Perhaps for the Sioux nation, in this conflict, there is NO price -- say a million dollars per resident, or its equivalent, like what coal miners are owed from the coal operators -- that would trump the existential cultural and environmental issues.  But I would like to see that assumption tested. Because therein lies a path to common ground with the building trades, who are in it solely for the money, and who are perfectly capable of understanding compensation. And I don't see many other paths to common ground when that number of jobs is at stake. 


Second, if the workers are supposed to fall on their swords, or if the project is ultimately cancelled due to political pressure, they and their ought to to be compensated. I have little sympathy for demands that social problems be solved simply by YOU losing YOUR job, while I keep MINE. I believe that approach generates MORE not LESS division. Pay the losers if you want grease the path to the promised land.


If the pipeline fails or is stopped, the Native peoples will be no richer, except in spirit, perhaps. The building trades workers will lose their jobs. Since there were no material gains, and lots of losses, all can say they shutdown a Bakken shale oil pipeline and helped save the planet, or preserved sacred ground, or forestalled the risk of a dangerous pipeline leak.  But each day will bring for all a return to scrounging for work, to get money and the means of life. The pipeline, assuming it is being built in response to real expected demand for the oil, will cross some other land.  The risks of a dangerous or deadly pipeline leak, such as occurred near Charleston, WV, and  in Ontario, CA, and Lynchburg, Va, justify high standards and high rewards for those who assume the risk. But the risks of dire poverty will kill most long before the dangerous leak happens. 


There is some similarity between this conflict and those over trade and TPP. Trade, globalization and technology have eviscerated the mid-20th Century middle class in the United States, and the hard-won, established forms of labor organization as well. Their combined effect means that there will be no return to that era, ever.


Manufacturing, mining and construction that develops here will be increasingly high-tech and mostly run by robots. (Unless our nation becomes partitioned into developed and undeveloped regions [little Pakistans]-- we become Latin America instead of they becoming us!). Any restoration of rising economic justice and political equality will be arise on very different economic and social foundations than existed in between the Great Wars, or in the Cold War. There is no stopping trade and globalization while commodities as the means of life rules. Some think defeat of a trade agreement will slow down trade. It won't. Other paths and protections for the global circulation of commodities, capital, and labor (refugees?) will be found. Even world wars would only cause a pause. Even climate change will accelerate, not retard, globalization. 


What's the similarity? Pay the Losers! It's the only remedy to the damage done by the commodity system, no matter how regulated. Its the only way to turn losers into winners. Social Democracies in Europe like Denmark (Bernie's Socialism model) figured this out a long time ago. You can build an economy around Trade (like Denmark) as long  as you pay and retrain the losers (an inevitable consequence of the re-divisions of labor generated by trade),and tax the trade to expand public goods.


A pipeline is not a trade transaction. It's infrastructure driven by supply and demand in global energy markets but regulated, insufficiently,  by the Federal government. Arbitrary shutdowns of supply will obviously pressure price increases. Increases in the price of energy roughly drive equal or greater increases in the economy-wide costs of production. The seismic political reaction to any substantial rise in energy costs should not be underestimated -- not necessarily, or even probably, a positive or progressive reaction. The energy sector of capital, due to its strategic role,  is historically among the most powerful and politically influential. At the same time the energy giants' overarching power is one of the best reason to rewrite the charters of too big to fail corporations, and submit them to much greater public oversight. If that were done, guaranteeing a Pay The Losers policy would be much easier wherever change demands people change jobs or occupations.




On Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 4:15 PM, John Christensen <> wrote:

I tend to sympathize with Gary on this but was unaware of any HRC blame towards the miners for the sins of strip mining, mountain top removal, or failed sludge ponds etc.. Please unlighten us to that so that we may remind her of this gross misplacement of blame.  Plenty of blame to go around though, we can start with the AFL-CIO and president Trumka.  It makes no sense at all for him to get involved in this fight, instead he should be organizing and retraining pipeline workers to thrive in the new GREEN economy.


John Christensen
Active solar advocate
Retired MEBA


On Wednesday, September 21, 2016 2:50 PM, Gary Hicks <> wrote:




Keeping focused solely on money, in supposed pursuit of unity between construction workers and native peoples is an inadequate focus. It doesn't take into account the existence and violations of land treaty rights and especially sacred spaces therein. There are scores of these treaties between the federal government and native peoples. Some of them enacted when the birth of trade unions were " a blink in their mother's eye". They are no less sacred than trade union contracts, and certainly  no less daily violated. There have been both Matewans and Wounded Knees. There has been strip mining in Appalachia and XL pipelining in the Dakotas. 


Furthermore DAPL and whatever arrangements exist for unionized construction workers..... are there arrangements for job training and employment for peoples whose unemployment rates eclipse those of even African Americans? What and where and who to contact? I have to be curious about the mine worker President of the AFL-CIO who can be so gratuitous with other people's lands when his own Mineworkers Union has difficulty resisting strip mining and its resultant loss of community and economy, whom his favored presidential candidate blames on the miners! 


If it isn't being done already, it might be helpful for AFL-CIO labor staff to contact the ( forget the name!) specialized college on native peoples land and law, and seek out collaboration on DAPL and other well as forthcoming ... matters.





Sent from my iPhone

On Sep 21, 2016, at 3:37 AM, John Case <> wrote:

via Portside


I am a supporter of the Standing Rock protest in this sense: Any project exploiting the Sioux Dakota reservations and peoples should both respect the treaty obligations to Native American peoples, AND PAY THEM A VERY HEFTY SUM in exchange for any access rights to the land of one of the poorest and most exploited populations in the Americas.


That said, the article below makes me want to puke. How outrageous, it shouts, for AFL President Trumka, or the building trades reps on the AFL-CIO executive council to give a care about 4500 pipeline jobs paying a truly living wage! 


No doubt, In These Times polemicists, so free with their advice on how social problems would just vaporize if SOMEONE ELSE LOSES THEIR JOB, would gladly give up their own jobs to stop the pipeline! I think not!


There is no path to unity in this article. And unity is the only path to any POSITIVE outcome. Pipeline workers, and Native Peoples, BOTH need $37$ our jobs! Common ground can be found if the focus stays on money! 


However  demands to shutdown pipelines, or coal, or factories, or anything else WITHOUT PAYING THE LOSERS, without care for the families and lives dependent on these industries is just a prescription for division, a bigger Trump vote, and another step on the road to fascism--the ultimate price paid for such divisions.


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

Portside Date: 

September 18, 2016


Kate Aronoff

Date of Source: 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

In These Times

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.




John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV


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John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV


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