Posted March 11, 2014
For American workers the more-than-five-year wait for the Keystone XL pipeline is personal. Make that very personal.
During a press conference with other union leaders and API President and CEO Jack Gerard, Laborers International Union of North America President Terry O’Sullivan said the construction sector is saddled with 12.8 percent unemployment, with nearly 1 million out of work. So every one of the 42,000 jobs the U.S. State Department estimates the Keystone XL would create during its construction phase is highly prized. O’Sullivan:
"To the tens of thousands of men and women in the construction industry this isn’t just a pipeline, it’s their mortgages, college tuitions, car payments and food on the table. And for our country this isn’t just a pipeline. It’s a lifeline to family security, energy security and national security.”
Building and Construction Trades Department President Sean McGarvey (far left in photo, with O'Sullivan, middle, and Gerard) said an energy project like the Keystone XL is the kind of infrastructure investment many in Washington are talking about. The pipeline would strengthen the middle class and generate new opportunity for thousands of workers, McGarvey said:
“It’s just amazing that it takes this long in the middle of a deep, deep recession to get approval for a private investment that’s certainly needed to secure the energy future of our country, our energy independence and our energy security. So once again at this point, we’re calling on this administration and President Obama … it is now time to build the Keystone XL pipeline. Let’s get on to rebuilding the middle class in these United States through our natural resources and become a net exporter our gas and oil. … (We need to) reestablish that floor under the middle class and start hanging those ladders of opportunity through these opportunities in this sector to pull people up into the middle class.”
API’s Gerard called Keystone XL one of the largest infrastructure projects in the country’s history. Gerard said the oil and natural gas industry is ready to make the investments to create jobs and boost the economy:
“A recent economic analysis shows that (over the next several years) the oil and gas sector will invest close to $1 trillion – that’s a ‘T’ - $1 trillion in private investment, to do what? To move the energy that we need as a nation and to provide for the opportunities for men and women here in this country to have these good-paying jobs, take care of their families and to plan for their future. … No more excuses, let’s put our people to work. It’s about American energy, American opportunity, and we can do this well if we’ll get on with the business. All we need is one simple statement of yes, and we’ll move it forward.”
Understandably, working men and women bristle whenever the Keystone XL’s jobs are dismissed as “temporary.” James Callahan, general president of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) said Washington’s monuments and memorials were temporary jobs. Glen Johnson, business manager for IUOE Local 49:
“A dentist doesn’t work on the same tooth every day. An attorney doesn’t try the same case every day. If you want to talk about temporary jobs, everyone has a temporary job. We’re talking about people who have a career in the construction industry, and they go from project to project and they build projects. And they do that for their career. They put their kids through college, they raise their families … These jobs that are going to be created by the Keystone XL … are jobs people are waiting for as the next project that they need to work on.”
O’Sullivan said the Keystone XL has been plagued by politics and that the pipeline will be a voting issue for working men and women:
“It’s time to finally stop talking about Keystone and to start building it, now. With all due respect to the administration and many in Congress, the wind is blowing in favor of jobs, in favor of economic development, in favor of national security and in favor of energy independence. … The men and women of organized labor are smart. They’re keeping score, and they don’t (care) whether a politician is a Democrat, a Republican or Independent. If they unlock good jobs, they’ll be for them. And if they block good jobs, they’ll be against them.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.