An America First Energy Policy?


President Donald Trump backs an “America First” energy policy, in part, to create high-wage construction jobs. In the interest of full disclosure, a few years ago I wrote for the “Building Trades News” a monthly of the Los Angeles/Orange County Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO.

We turn to a statement from North America’s Building Trades Unions, AFL-CIO, after President Trump issued an Executive Order to pave a path for construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

“We are grateful that President Trump understands that 32% of today’s construction industry workforce is employed on energy projects, amounting to over 2 million workers, and that projects such as the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines are significant job creators that generate above-average wages and benefits for hard-working Americans.”

This NABTU support has been coming since the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline in 2011 and the Dakota Access pipeline more recently, said Sean Sweeney, director of the International Program on Labor, Climate and Environment at the Murphy Institute, and coordinator of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy.

There is more. “The NABTU has been re-aligning itself away from the AFL-CIO,” Sweeney said. “There has been no formal split, though the official affiliation with the labor federation remains, e.g., a presence in the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, DC.”

What does all this mean? The NABTU can, from within the AFL-CIO, try to silence union critics of energy projects such as the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, according to Sweeney. “For both energy projects, the NABTU sent a series of scathing letters to unions, the press and anyone who would listen, disparaging pipeline construction opponents that they were not real unions, and bottom-feeders,” he said.

Both energy pipeline projects that further carbonize the climate are what the warming planet does not need, a growing chorus of activists and scientists warn us.

RoseAnn DeMoro is the executive director of National Nurses United, AFL-CIO, and a critic of both pipeline construction projects. The political failures of both parties to chart a new energy policy of renewable and solar sources is at the root of the labor and climate crisis.

“The Democrats and Republicans have failed to-date to develop a public works plan (infrastructure),” she said, “that would not harm the environment—green jobs. Too many people do not have jobs.”

A deficit of jobs and a surplus of job-seekers is how the capitalist system operates to hold down wage-income. Exceptions do exist. One is World War Two, when the US economy went from a labor force of 25 percent unemployment to full employment, after Uncle Sam agreed to buy the surplus production that private industry failed to sell.

President Trump is all about creating good high-wage construction jobs, according to him on the campaign trail and in the Oval Office.

But wait. According to Energy Transfer Partners, LP, long-term job creation to operate “the Dakota Access pipeline and facilities (is) 40 to 50 jobs along the entire pipeline route.”

DeMoro continues. “In many ways the overall question is why do we support candidates and legislators who do not create a robust green jobs program?” Maybe a third political party could address the crises of the economy and ecology, and transcend what Ralph Nader calls the corporate duopoly of the two parties.

Seth Sandronsky is a journalist and member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email

From The Progressive Populist, March 1, 2017

Blog | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2017 The Progressive Populist

PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652