Key­stone irks Obama la­bor base

Calls pres­i­dent ‘cow­ardly’ for aban­don­ing work­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY BEN WOLF­GANG

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.

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