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Richard Trumka, the leader of one of the largest labor unions in the U.S. admitted that he regretted President Joe Biden’s decision to stop the Keystone XL pipeline project on his first day in office, during an interview he gave for Axios on HBO.
Trumka, President of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), was asked about statements from the Laborers’ International Union of North America about the jobs that would be lost if construction of the pipeline was canceled. “I wish I hadn’t done it on day one,” he responded annoyed,
The Laborers’ International Union of North America said the Keystone decision will cost 1,000 existing union jobs and 10,000 projected construction jobs.
“Laborers’ International was right,” Trumka continued. “It cost us and will cost us jobs in the process. I wish he had paired [this decision on Keystone] more carefully with what he did next,” when he proposed redirecting those jobs. “We can do mine reclamation, we can fix the leaks and we can create hundreds of thousands of jobs by doing all of that,” the leader said.
Jonathan Swan of Axios, subsequently asked him if he believes Biden learned from such a mistake, to which Trumka responded that he believed he did. He added that he expects the president to combine any future decisions that kill union jobs with simultaneous and specific announcements on how those jobs will be replaced.
Axios details that the union leader explained the logic of what it means to do what Biden did with Keystone XL: “If you destroy 100 jobs in Greene County, Pennsylvania, where I grew up, and you create 100 jobs in California, it doesn’t do those 100 families much good.”
“If you’re looking at a pipeline and you say we’re going to stop it, what are you going to do now to create the same good-paying jobs in that area?” asked Trumka, highlighting the need for an immediate counterproposal for the jobs that were eliminated.
El American reported that President Biden’s decision was purely political and not technical. The decision aims to fulfil the Democrat’s green agenda and satisfy the American left, rather than addressing a current need in the country. Moreover, “the decision to block the construction of the pipeline sends a lousy signal to the market about the stability of some investments in the United States.”
“Trumka, who began his career as a coal miner,” Axios comments, “noted that he will have no patience for promises of retraining programs as consolation for unionized workers forced out of their jobs.”
“You know,” Trumka said, “when they laid off [employees] in the mines in Pennsylvania, they told us they were going to train us to be computer programmers.”
Trumka went on to explain that when government officials were asked about where the computer programmer jobs are, hesitantly, they replied: “they’re in Oklahoma, and they’re in Las Vegas, and they’re here.” “And I said, “So, in other words, what we’re going to be is unemployed miners and also unemployed computer programmers.”
Trumka stressed the importance of community to workers. People love where they live and they love the people in that area, Trumka said. “And for them, that’s their home. And that’s their culture.”
He further commented that Washington doesn’t see this as a relevant factor in workers’ lives. “I think what’s not understood enough in the country, particularly in DC politics, is that that culture is very, very important to the people who live there.”
Rafael Valera, Venezuelan, student of Political Science, political exile in São Paulo, Brazil since 2017 // Rafael Valera, venezolano, es estudiante de Ciencias Políticas y exiliado político en São Paulo, Brasil desde 2017