LABORERS RE-ELECT O’SULLIVAN, DEFEND OIL PIPELINE PROJECTS

Delegates to the Laborers convention unanimously re-elected union President Terry O’Sullivan and the entire executive board at their convention in late September. But they also took on other unions over construction of oil pipelines.

And just after the 4,000 delegates left Las Vegas in late September, their local there crossed swords with the biggest union local in Nevada, Unite Here Local 226, over construction of a new pro football stadium to entice the Oakland Raiders to move.

The Laborers, saying the multimillion-dollar taxpayer-financed bond issue would generate thousands of jobs to build the stadium, are for it. Unite Here, calling the project a waste of taxpayers’ money and a subsidy to rich NFL owners, is against the bond issue.   

O’Sullivan hailed the union’s new commitment to increasing political activism, especially campaign contributions, and to organizing. The Laborers have committed more than $80 million to organizing initiatives in the last several years.

And he led the delegates on a march against GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, joining Unite Here 226 members in picketing the mogul’s hotel. Trump’s minions refuse to recognize and bargain with Locals 226 and 165, whom its workers voted for last December.

In his speech, O’Sullivan lauded the union’s progress. “We took this union from a small group of courageous immigrant and minority workers that no one else wanted” when the Laborers were founded in 1903 “to the powerhouse it is today,” he declared.

And despite the Great Recession, which saw joblessness among construction workers reach Depression-era levels, the Laborers have become “the go-to union” on energy construction, O’Sullivan said. “We created new jobs for our members in solar, wind, hydro and nuclear, while defending our jobs in the pipeline sector,” he added.

 But pipeline construction projects have produced conflicts with other unions. The Laborers were one of six construction unions – the others included the Electrical Workers, the Operating Engineers and the Teamsters – to sign a Project Labor Agreement years ago for union construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which later became controversial.

Other unions, including National Nurses United and the Amalgamated Transit Union, joined environmentalists in opposing a federal permit for Keystone, arguing it would carry carbon-emissions-causing “dirty oil” from Albertan tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries.

President Barack Obama (D) sided with Keystone foes and vetoed its northern leg, from the Canadian province of Alberta to Guthrie, Okla., angering the Laborers. At the convention, delegates unanimously became peeved at union opposition to another oil pipeline, the Dakota Access Project from the Dakotas to Illinois.

Their resolution said the unions opposing Dakota Access – NNU, ATU, the Postal Workers and the Communications Workers – are attacking Laborers’ members’ livelihoods. 

“These four unions have no equity in this pipeline. It will not put a single one of their members to work, yet they choose to take food off of our members’ tables. A central tenet of the labor movement has always been that when it comes to a project in which you have no equity at stake, you either support it or remain silent. We look forward to reciprocating the ‘solidarity’ shown to LIUNA members by these unions,” the Laborers resolution said.