Thursday, June 6, 2013

Unions Oppose the Keystone XL in the Jobs vs. Environment Debate

Several unions are opposing the Keystone XL project and this is significant because the strongest argument of supporters of the pipeline is that the project provides jobs. The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP), the Transport Workers Union. and an increasing number of health care workers have all come out against the pipeline.

Refering to the Keystone XL, David Coles, the president of CEP said "We're diametrically opposed to the construction of it." What makes the support of this union so important is the fact that it represents 35,000 Canadian oil and gas workers, including thousands involved in Canada's tar sands. "The Keystone XL is not good for the economy, it's not good for the environment, it violates all kinds of First Nations rights," Coles said.

Coles went on to say that the union also opposes "the unfettered expansion" of tar sands extraction, saying "it's not in the best interest of Canada and it's not in the best interest of our members."

Coles and members of his staff do not only talk the talk they walk the walk. In 2011 they were arrested during White House protests against the pipeline. Coles had indicated that his union was planning to continue to protest the project but he was forced to back-down after US construction unions threatened to picket them.

The Transport Workers Union also opposes the Keystone project, as are a growing number of health care workers. Earlier this year, the National Nurses United published a statement warning of the "significant impact" the pipeline would have on the health of communities along its route and that it will "exacerbate climate change which affects public health much more broadly even than the widespread direct impacts of the tar sands industry."

"You cannot separate the environment, jobs, the economy, human rights," said Coles. "It's a four-legged stool, and it's falling over...The thing that liberals and progressive minded people have not yet come to terms with is what do we do about an economic system that continually puts the health, environment and standard of living of workers at risk."

The support of these unions adds weight to a 2011 Cornell University study which indicated that the Keystone XL would not offer the employment and economic benefits that many are suggesting. The study also indicated that the project would undermine cleaner energy initiatives.

The Cornell study and opposition from organized labor powerfully refutes the employment and economic arguments put forth in support of the pipeline.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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