By Thomas Catenacci
Several trade unions that endorsed President Joe Biden during the campaign, condemned his executive order revoking the federal government’s permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline.
President Joe Biden revoked the March 2019 federal permit given to TC Energy Corporation, the company constructing the pipeline, in a Jan. 20 executive order on “protecting public health and the environment.” The pipeline has been criticized by organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council for being harmful to the environment but applauded by groups like the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for creating union jobs.
“The Keystone XL Pipeline has been through more than 10 years of extensive environmental reviews, and today’s announcement is a slap in the face to the thousands of union workers who are already a part of this safe and sustainable project,” API President and CEO Mike Sommers said in a statement following Biden’s signing of the executive order.
Marty Durbin, president of the Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute, called Biden’s order “politically motivated” and said it would result in thousands of building trades workers losing their jobs.
The project is an extension of an existing TC Energy pipeline that already transports crude oil from Canada to the U.S., according to The Wall Street Journal. The extension would carry crude directly from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska where it would connect to existing pipeline that stretches to the Gulf of Mexico.
TC Energy said Biden’s action would “impact thousands of union jobs.” In the coming weeks, more than 1,000 construction workers will be laid off because of the permit revocation, the company said in a message to its employees following the decision, according to Reuters.
John Kerry, Biden’s climate czar, said Wednesday that workers who lose their jobs due to the administration’s climate policies can find jobs making solar panels.
General Manager working on the Keystone XL pipeline says that “hundreds of guys” have already been laid off in Wisconsin as a result of Joe Biden's executive order halting construction of the pipelinepic.twitter.com/TMOf80ph2i
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) January 25, 2021
TC Energy signed the Keystone XL Pipeline’s project labor agreement (PLA) with four labor unions in August, promising the creation of 42,000 “family-sustaining jobs” in the U.S. and $2 billion in total earnings for the workers.
The labor unions that signed the PLA were the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) and the United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA). All four labor unions endorsed Biden’s presidential campaign.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW) announced Monday it would offer free legal aid to union workers who lost their job due to the order and whose union endorsed Biden.
“Workers should not be forced to financially support union bosses who use workers’ money to back candidates willing to destroy their jobs with the stroke of a pen,” Mark Mix, president of the NRTW, said in a statement.
On the campaign trail, Biden promised to rescind the Keystone permit, according to Reuters. Biden’s campaign said he “strongly opposed” the pipeline in May.
Still, since the executive order was announced, the involved unions’ leaders who supported Biden’s campaign, have expressed disappointment that Biden would take action leading to the loss of thousands of union jobs.
Laborers International Union of North America
“The Biden Administration’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit on day one of his presidency is both insulting and disappointing to the thousands of hard-working LIUNA members who will lose good-paying, middle class family-supporting jobs,” LiUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan said in a statement.
“By blocking this 100 percent union project, and pandering to environmental extremists, a thousand union jobs will immediately vanish and 10,000 additional jobs will be foregone,” O’Sullivan continued.
However, LiUNA endorsed Biden in September, calling him a “steadfast working-class warrior.”
“We can count on him to stand with us on issues of critical importance to LiUNA members and their families,” O’Sullivan said in an endorsement message.
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
“The Teamsters strongly oppose yesterday’s decision, and we would urge the administration to reconsider it,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said in a statement.
“It will reduce good-paying union jobs that allow workers to provide a middle-class standard of living to their families,” Hoffa continued. “America needs access to various forms of energy that can keep its economy running in the years ahead. This decision will hurt that effort.”
But Hoffa said the Teamsters “have a friend in Joe Biden” after the union endorsed him in August.
International Union of Operating Engineers
Although IUOE was a part of the Keystone XL’s PLA, the union hasn’t publicly commented on Biden’s executive order shutting the project down. The union has previously expressed support for the project and called it “irreplaceable,” according to NRTW.
“Unions working in the pipeline industry, like the Operating Engineers, pride themselves on achieving the highest level of technical training and safety to earn opportunities to build projects like Keystone XL,” James Callahan, IUOE general president, said in an August statement.
In September, Callahan called Biden the “best choice for Operating Engineers and their families” in a letter to union members endorsing the former vice president.
IUOE didn’t respond to a request for comment.
United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters
“Let me be very clear: When built with union labor by the men and women of the United Association, pipelines like Keystone XL remain the safest and most efficient modes of energy transportation in the world,” Mark McManus, general president of the UA said in a statement. “Sadly, the Biden Administration has now put thousands of union workers out of work.”
McManus added that the Keystone XL Pipeline would both be constructed entirely with union labor and the first pipeline fully powered by renewable energy. One week before Biden was sworn into office, TC Energy announced it would achieve net zero emissions across project operations when placed into service.
McManus, though, said Biden would be a “fierce ally” to the union in his August endorsement message.
North America’s Building Trades Union
“North America’s Building Trades Unions are deeply disappointed in the decision to cancel the Keystone XL permit on the President’s first official day in office,” NABTU President Sean McGarvey said. “Environmental ideologues have now prevailed, and over a thousand union men and women have been terminated from employment on the project.”
NABTU is a trades union alliance comprised of 14 unions representing more than 3 million workers total.
The federation issued its formal endorsement of Biden in October. McGarvey said Biden values the union workers who built the middle class.
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