Bldg. Trades Hit Obama For Minimizing Number of Keystone Jobs

WASHINGTON—The AFL-CIO’s Building Trades Department is sharply criticizing Democratic President Barack Obama’s apparent minimization of the number of jobs the controversial Keystone XL pipeline would create.
In comments to the New York Times Magazine, Obama reportedly said the northern segment of the pipeline, which would send heavy oil from the Albertan tar sands above the Montana-Canada border to a huge oil terminal in Cushing, Okla., would create only a few thousand construction jobs and fewer than 50 permanent jobs.
The low jobs figure Obama used was “promulgated by special interests and activist billionaires,” Building Trades Department President Sean McGarvey said, refer-ring to wealthy political donors and environmentalists, who strongly oppose Keystone.
“The lives of workers who would find employment on this privately financed project and their families who stand to benefit from the good wages as well as health and retirement benefits, are much more than a ‘blip relative to the need,’” McGarvey continued, citing another reported Obama statement from the magazine interview.
 The southern segment of the pipeline is being built from Cushing to Texas Gulf Coast refineries, but the northern segment, because it crosses the international border, needs Obama’s OK, especially if Obama’s own executive branch agencies split over whether extraction of the heavy tar sands oil would contribute to global warming or not.
 Years ago, Keystone sponsor TransCanada signed a project labor agreement (PLA) with the Operating Engineers, the Laborers, the Teamsters and another union to have union labor build Keystone.  A State Department environmental impact statement says its construction would create 20,000 jobs.  But environmentalists and their allies, including the Transport Workers and National Nurses United, oppose the pipeline because of the greenhouse gas emissions it would contribute to global warming.
McGarvey doubled that jobs number, to 42,000 yearly over a 2-year construction time frame, citing State’s first environmental impact statement, not the second, more-detailed one.  Regardless of the number, each new construction job is important, McGarvey emphasized, when the jobless rate in that sector is still in the double digits.
“America’s building trades unions were disappointed to see the president chose to minimize the importance of jobs for construction workers” and chose the lower jobs figures, McGarvey said.  And Obama’s comments show he does not understand the construction industry and its workers, and Obama is “part of a political system incapable of crafting solutions that will have a meaningful effect on people’s lives,” he added.
“Wall Street financiers, hedge fund managers and politicians have become whole and had continuous employment throughout this difficult time while the middle class, blue-collar and low-wage workers continue to struggle.  The apparent disconnect is stunning and sad.  Today, unemployment in the construction industry is, as it has been for the last several years, disproportionately high, and we in the building trades understand that every job is important to the craft professionals we represent.
“While some may stand to benefit from further delay, we continue to encourage the president to approve construction…so workers and their families can share in the economic recovery he is touting.  The president should look to his own State Department’s findings” of “meaningful job creation and minimal greenhouse gas impact by approving construction.  It is time to approve the pipeline,” McGarvey ended.