Union Promises to Punish Congressional Opponents of Keystone XL

Published April 25, 2014

One of the nation’s largest labor unions promised to punish congressional opponents of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. In a letter sent to members in 27 congressional districts, the Laborers’ International Union of North America said the members’ congressional representatives are killing jobs by opposing the pipeline.

Destroying Job Opportunities
“Your member of Congress is trying to destroy job opportunities for our LIUNA brothers and sisters,” Terry O’Sullivan, general president of LIUNA, wrote in the letter.

“For every action, there is a reaction, and our reaction to this frontal assault on our way of life needs to be loud and clear. If you do not stand with us, we sure as hell will not stand with you,” O’Sullivan wrote.

The letter was not sent directly to the media, but The Hill obtained a copy and published its content.

‘Environmental Extremists’ Lambasted
“To all proud, strong, and united LIUNA brothers and sisters, I say, enough is enough! Our members and their families are angry, disappointed, and disillusioned with out-of-touch, job-killing politicians who choose to side with environmental extremists over work for our members,” O’Sullivan wrote. “These so-called ‘friends’ of ours are destroying good-paying work opportunities with family-supporting benefits, at a time when LIUNA members are trying to put food on their tables, keep roofs over their heads, and maintain middle-class lifestyles.”

President Sides with Activists
Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), says the Keystone XL pipeline would provide exactly the kind of high-paying, mostly unionized infrastructure jobs that President Obama has championed since he took office. Accordingly, Matthews said, it is very perplexing Obama and some congressional Democrats have refused to support the pipeline.

“The president complains the pipeline jobs would be temporary, but virtually all infrastructure jobs are temporary. And these infrastructure jobs wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime,” said Matthews.

“It seems very clear to me that President Obama has internally sided with the radical environmentalists on the Keystone XL pipeline. All the information and studies support approving Keystone—if President Obama wanted to,” Matthews explained.

“The president doesn’t want to upset the union vote, especially in several states where Senate Democrats are vulnerable. As a result, he’s postponing a decision as long as possible—preferably
until after the election—if he can get away with it,” said Matthews.

Opposition ‘Is Absurd’
Seton Motley, president of the public policy organization Less Government, said Democrats risk alienating one of their core constituencies by stalling on the decision.

“Unions are the largest Obama and Democratic congressional supporters, year in and year out. They provide Democrats hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of foot-soldier man-hours, so to delay the pipeline or even oppose the unions on this is absurd,” said Motley.

H. Sterling Burnett, an energy and environment consultant based in Dallas, Texas, said Obama has played politics with Keystone in every election.

“The State Department has already said Keystone was OK, so he’s delaying this for political reasons. What’s changed this year is unions are finally standing against him,” Burnett observed.

“The economy is still in bad shape, and congressional Democrats cannot afford to be on the wrong side of jobs this year,” said Burnett.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.