Construction union leaders praise Trump pro-pipeline executive orders; Trumka met Trump beforehand

WASHINGTON —Construction union leaders praised new Republican President Donald Trump’s two executive orders giving “go” signals to completion of the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. Trump issued the orders on Jan. 24, the day after he met four building trades leaders at the White House.

The building trades-Trump meeting was 11 days after a pre-inauguration talk between Trump and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka at Trump Tower in New York on Jan. 13. Trumka tweeted they had “a very honest and productive conversation,” but did not elaborate.

As for the Jan. 24 talks, “We’re cautiously optimistic about what happened,” said Paul Pimentel of SMWIA/SMART, after hearing from his president, Joe Sellers.   North America’s Building Trades President Sean McGarvey, Laborers President Terry O’Sullivan and Carpenters President Doug McCarron also attended. Only McCarron did not comment.

“They talked about infrastructure, which is important to all our members – pipelines, hospitals, schools, railroads, even bringing back coal jobs. There’s a lot out there. And Trump’s familiar with the (construction) industry” from his decades as a builder and developer, “so that helps,” Pimentel said.

The construction union leaders were both optimistic about future infrastructure legislation under Trump and cheered by the pro-pipeline announcements. Trump predicted the two projects, combined, would generate 28,000 construction jobs.

But his announcements do not mean the two pipelines will be built immediately. Trump’s Keystone order told its owner, TransCanada, to resubmit its construction permit application to the State Department to OK the Alberta-Oklahoma Keystone segment. He also said it should use U.S. steel, but all the steel for the pipe has been built, TransCanada says. It’s in storage.

And Trump told the Army Corps of Engineers to — in so many words — drop its delay of construction of the last 1,100 feet of the Dakota-Illinois Dakota Access line. Native Americans, green groups and some unions – led by National Nurses United, which also opposes Keystone — call Dakota Access a threat to drinking water and an encroachment on sacred tribal lands.

“We will continue to publicly oppose both Keystone and Dakota Access, as well as join with other activists in promoting environmental justice,” NNU Communications Director Chuck Idelson e-mailed to Press Associates Union News Service.

Construction union leaders have been campaigning for Keystone ever since six of their unions – including the Operating Engineers, the Laborers and the Teamsters – signed a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for the multimillion-dollar project more than seven years ago.

Union workers built Keystone’s southern leg, from Guthrie, Okla., to Gulf Coast oil refineries, but Democratic President Barack Obama blocked the northern leg. He said its “dirty oil” from Albertan tar sands and the fuel used to extract it would add to pollution that causes global warming. The building trades leaders, notably O’Sullivan, blasted his ruling.

In prepared statements, construction union leaders praised Trump’s reversal. Sellers called the talks “frank and honest about the issues that lie at the heart of what our members and working families have on their minds: Jobs, income security and the ability to get ahead in today’s economy.” He also praised Trump’s Jan. 23 decision to formally withdraw the U.S. from the jobs-losing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade pact” talks (see TPP story).

“Our members know that we must get to work on rebuilding our American infrastructure. We look forward to working with the new administration as he (Trump) turns his campaign promises into new jobs in order to do just that,” Sellers said. The other leaders also pledged to work with Trump on infrastructure legislation.

“In politics, there are people of words and people of deeds,” McGarvey said. “President Trump is a man who puts action behind his words.”

“It is very encouraging for the hard-working men and women who build our nation that President Donald Trump chose to meet within days of taking office to discuss pressing issues facing workers in the construction and energy industries,” O’Sullivan said. “President Trump was clear about his determination to create opportunities for working men and women through infrastructure investment.”

After reiterating their support for the two pipelines, O’Sullivan said the four also stressed public construction must “support good family-supporting jobs.” While the GOP congressional majority is hostile on many worker issues, construction issues – especially preservation of prevailing wages under the Davis-Bacon Act — have been a notable exception, but only after intensive worker lobbying.

Teamsters President Jim Hoffa, who did not attend the meeting, praised Trump’s pipeline decisions – and noted Senate Democrats beat him to the punch on infrastructure.

“For years, workers have been hamstrung by political infighting that halted the passage of a substantial infrastructure bill that would improve transportation, energy and water systems and create good-paying jobs. That, however, is hopefully about to change,” Hoffa said.

The Dems “rolled out a wide-ranging plan that would benefit” workers and business, Hoffa said. “It would improve the ability of companies to produce and move commerce nationwide, while at the same time giving a boost to the economy. And it would employ thousands at good wages and benefits.

“President Trump also promised to introduce his own proposal soon, and the Teamsters look forward to viewing that as well. We are convinced that together, elected officials can enact significant bipartisan legislation that will set the U.S. on a necessary path to compete globally. That’s what this union called for…in 2015, and that is what is still needed today.”

Source: PAI