Keystone irks Obama labor base
Calls president ‘cowardly’ for abandoning workers
President Obama’s relationship with blue-collar unions has hit an all-time low, with several powerful labor groups ripping into the administration — and the Democratic Party as a whole — for its rejection of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and its promotion of the highly controversial trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Mr. Obama’s recent decision to reject Keystone on environmental grounds, which he announced after a review process that lasted nearly seven years, deeply angered the president’s traditional supporters in the labor movement.
In addition to unprecedented verbal criticism of Mr. Obama — including from the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which branded the president “cowardly” and his actions “shameful” — other unions hinted that they may rethink their support for Democrats in 2016.
“President Obama has chosen to place politics over substantive policy that only serves to advance the agenda of well-funded radical environmentalists,” Sean McGarvey, president of the North America’s Building Trades Unions, said in a statement Friday. “All of which begs the question: Where does this leave the Democratic Party’s historical core constituency of working Americans? We won’t know the answer to that question until November 2016. But, to paraphrase Senator Ted Kennedy, for all those whose jobs have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, and the dream shall never die, and hope springs again in January of 2017.”
Mr. Obama, who has tried to cultivate close ties with labor leaders throughout his time in the White House, now finds himself in a situation where his relationship with some major unions is tense at best and fatally wounded at worst. In addition to the lambasting the administration has taken over Keystone, it is enduring equal criticism on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a major trade deal involving the U.S. and 12 Pacific Rim nations.
The full text of the deal, which is opposed by many key figures in the Democratic Party, including 2016 presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton, finally was released last week. Major unions wasted little time publicly crushing it. “Officials have talked about side deals and special arrangements that they say will improve the agreement,” Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa said in a statement. “But they are unenforceable and won’t help protect the jobs of hardworking Americans. That’s why there is only one right answer for lawmakers when it comes to TPP. Just say no.”
Teamsters also launched a #TPPWorseThanWeThought campaign on Twitter seeking to rally opposition to the deal within the Democratic Party.
While the administration flat out rejects many criticisms of TPP — including that the deal’s labor standards aren’t strong enough — Mr. Obama took a slightly different tack when explaining why he blocked the Keystone pipeline.
The project — which would have crossed the U.S.Canada boundary, connected with existing pipeline infrastructure and transported more than 800,000 barrels of Canadian oil to refineries on the Gulf Coast — would have created more than 40,000 jobs, according to State Department research. Supporters argue it would have greatly enhanced North American energy security and potentially would have lowered U.S. gas prices.