American Workers Outraged over President's Pipeline Politics

November 18, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - Last week the president made headlines when he opted out of a jobs plan to put thousands of Americans back to work at zero-cost to taxpayers. With over a hundred thousand jobs on the line, the president refused to approve the Presidential Permit needed to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, punting a final decision and telling workers they would have to wait, if the jobs are ever created at all. The labor unions representing workers who stand to benefit from the pipeline are outraged over the administration's decision to put politics over jobs.

Vincent Giblin, President of the the International Union of Operating Engineers, expressed his members' frustrations in a letter this week to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He wrote, "The State Department's unprecedented decision to backtrack its own conclusions contained in the Final Environmental Impact Statement suggests a troubling political calculus, which ignores the merits of the project. With the authority to create approximately 20,000 construction and other jobs with the stroke of a pen, at a time with the unemployment rate in construction is the highest of any sector, the Administration missed a major opportunity to employ members of the IUOE and other unions. Because of the unique authority your Administration possessed to create jobs almost immediately, without congressional action or a dime of public investment, this decision will reverberate throughout the membership of the Operating Engineers."

Mark Ayers, President of the Building and Construction Trades Department at the AFL-CIO, issued a statement blasting the president for his failure to pull through for American workers at the final hour. "The President's decision to wait until the 11th hour only gives credibility to the argument that his decision was one of political expediency, rather than a decision based on facts and the national interest. Approval of this project by the Administration would have been a lifeline for thousands of American workers.  This delay may mean that the project will not go forward and thousands of jobs will be lost in the U.S. construction industry which continues to suffer unemployment rates approaching twice the national average."

The Laborers' International Union of North America also came out swinging against the president, angered by his favor of environmentalist voters over American laborers and their families. General President of LIUNA Terry O'Sullivan stated, "Environmentalists formed a circle around the White House and within days the Obama Administration chose to inflict a potentially fatal delay to a project that is not just a pipeline, but is a lifeline for thousands of desperate working men and women. The Administration chose to support environmentalists over jobs - job-killers win, American workers lose. Environmental groups from the Natural Resources Defense Council to the Sierra Club may be dancing in the streets, having delayed and possibly stopped yet another project that would put men and women back to work. While they celebrate, pipeline workers will continue to lose their homes and livelihoods. We had hoped the decision would have been made on the basis of economics, facts and the best interests of the nation, not on the basis of a political calculation."

The president's delay on the pipeline has left blue-collar workers feeling abandoned. Daniel Henninger explains in the Wall Street Journal, "America's workers, no matter the color of their collars, desperately need a higher economic growth rate than decisions such as the delay on Keystone are going to give them. The Keystone shuffle should make clear to many middle-class workers that this is no longer their fathers' Democratic Party. It's going in a different direction, toward the clouds."

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