Oil and Gas Pipeline Construction vs. Massive Public Infrastructure Construction: Why do the Building Trades unions want the FORMER rather than the LATTER? I have no idea. [TITLE CORRECTED, 5/18 at 10:46 a.m.]
The AFL-CIO’s plans for a super PAC to take down Donald Trump ran into a big snag Monday, when one of the labor federation’s major affiliates objected to the involvement of billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer.
Sean McGarvey, president of the AFL-CIO-affiliated North America’s Building Trades Unions, co-signed a letter with seven other union presidents urging federation President Richard Trumka to cut ties with Steyer, a hedge fund manager who had spent money to aid environmental groups’ successful crusade to kill the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Building Trades had been a big supporter of the pipeline, in contrast with unions that sided with green groups’ opposition to the project.
The labor groups sent the letter less than a week after POLITICO revealed the impending launch of a new super PAC led by the AFL-CIO, Steyer’s NextGen Climate and three labor unions.
“We respectfully request that the AFL-CIO cut ties with Mr. Steyer and his political operation,” the letter said, “as we do not want any of our members’ financial support for the federation to be used against them and their economic well being in pursuit of this endeavor.”
The Obama administration’s rejection of the Keystone project riled the Building Trades when the president announced it last year. Laborers’ International Union of North America President Terry O’Sullivan, also a signatory of Monday’s letter, accused President Barack Obama at the time of “kowtowing to green-collar elitists.”
— A major AFL-CIO affiliate called on the labor federation to end a new relationship with environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer. Brian Mahoney and Anna Palmer, Politico, yesterday
This strikes me as a really easy rift to repair. The Democrats—both presidential candidates and (I believe) most of their Senate and House candidates—strongly support massive public infrastructure projects, ranging from public transportation and bridge reconstruction projects to rehabbing or reconstructing inner-city public schools, to water system reconstruction projects in order to avoid further Flint, MI-type problems.
I’m certainly no expert on such matters, but it seems inconceivable to me that these major nationwide public infrastructure projects wouldn’t create far, far more building-trades jobs than oil and gas pipeline construction would, and do so in many more regions of the country.
So, what is it that I’m missing here? Why isn’t this the quick, clear response by the AFL-CIO to this concern, to this demand by these Building Trades union presidents? And to the anger of many of their rank-and-file members? I don’t get it.
The answer is simple. The Democrats have been unable to deliver on their promises for infrastructure spending. If your members are out of work and starving for jobs, you opt for the bird in the hand rather than the dubitable promise of two in the bush.
I thought of that, Bill, but it’s the Republicans who repeatedly block infrastructure funding. Why not try to end Republican control of Congress?
One of Clinton’s concessions to Bernie should be beefing up her infrastructure spending anyway, from $275 billion for five years to maybe $500 B or $400 B — with some of that being effectively a permanent replacement in infrastructure spending for the endemic shortfall in infrastructure spending that has harmed the economy (by reducing total C + G demand) for 30 years.
The national minimum wage ($15 instead of her $12) should not be a concession because hers is more defensible for a country that includes Mississippi as well as San Francisco and Seattle. She has said she would sign a $15 wage bill if it came to her desk, but she should include the qualifier that it will have to include a transition plan that will protect small businesses as much as possible. It is the small businesses that can mount the most sympathetic opposition, and it should be neutralized.
I agree that Clinton should adopt Sanders’s infrastructure plan. The problem, though, is how to fund it. A big problem with Clinton’s fiscal plans is that she plans to fund everything with taxes on the wealthy, having ruled out–in fact mocked–for example, Sanders’s very good proposal to fund guaranteed paid family and medical leave with a $1.50 (or some such) per-week addition to the FICA tax, because, well, she wants to increase wages, not decrease them. For the sake of a cute, catchy soundbite, she removed the possibility of any federal tax increases, even in small amounts, on anyone but the wealthy.
Then again, her general election opponent changes his policy positions every day or so, so she’s free to make significant, well-thought-out and specific changes to hers.
As for the minimum wage, Sanders’s plan would be a gradual one over the course of a number of years.
Hillary’s $100 billion in infrastructure spending (all told) a year is woefully inadequate.
It’s why the center-left media liberals support Hillary and the left support Sanders.
Why do we care about SuperPacs? Who cares if they cut ties or not?
I guess the agreement was that the AFL-CIO’s political fund and Steyer’s PAC would jointly sponsor ads–buy ad time and jointly produce the ads. They express their concern in this sentence:
“’We respectfully request that the AFL-CIO cut ties with Mr. Steyer and his political operation,’ the letter said, ‘as we do not want any of our members’ financial support for the federation to be used against them and their economic well being in pursuit of this endeavor.’”
But it doesn’t make sense to me either, Peter. Presumably, the ads would support Dem candidates who strongly support union and other working-class interests, including making it easier to unionize (giving unions more overall political clout and the AFL-CIO more funding). I doubt that the AFL-CIO would support ads that directly address climate-change issues, even though Steyer’s issue–the issue that his PAC normally addresses–is climate change.
Steyer spent a huge amount of money in 2014 trying to help elect candidates who are aggressive on the climate-change issues, but failed almost completely. I remember thinking during that year’s campaign, whenever I read something about Steyer’s super PAC’s efforts, that to make any difference in the elections’ outcome the superPAC needed to focus on economic and related issues in addition to climate-change issues, because most people care, first and foremost, about economic issues. I’m betting that that is what the purpose of his agreement with the AFL-CIO is geared toward doing. But I don’t know; there’s not enough information in the article to make it clear what the ads would focus on.
Clinton and Sanders plans both are woeful when it comes to Infrastructure spending. Clinton’s is probably good enough politically and cyclically however, especially if they deal.
Keep in mind that the AFL-CIO is a very big union and Richard Trumpka is a very, very smart man. He knows how to play the the long game. The dissenters are a small faction of construction trade workers.
It is a viewpoint of the privileged to demand that everyone play the long game. But as Keynes said “In the long run we are all dead.” Trade workers are losing their homes, their cars, their retirement, everything right now. They need relief now, not some hazy distant future. They see Steyer and the Greens as demanding that workers sacrifice their livelihood for the greater good while the privileged themselves live in comfort. It is a viewpoint of privilege.
‘It is a viewpoint of the privileged to demand that everyone play the long game. But as Keynes said “In the long run we are all dead.” Trade workers are losing their homes, their cars, their retirement, everything right now. They need relief now, not some hazy distant future.’
Excellent point, Bill. The pipeline is one of those “shovel-ready” projects, and it could be started with a stroke of the president’s famous pen.
Oh, I’m not saying that the XL pipeline should have been approved. I’m just saying that I can see the point of view of those being asked to sacrifice their lives, which was Beverly’s original question.
There are lots of more socially beneficial shovel-ready projects that could be started in the absence of Republican obstructionism.
I think I remember reading that about 7,000 jobs would be created by Keystone, for about four years. I don’t know whether all those jobs were for the entire four years or instead some were just for part of that time.
One of the articles I read today about this letter signed by these seven union presidents said that the seven unions have about 500,000 members in total.
Remember back in 2010 when Chris Christie proudly refused a huge amount of federal money from the stimulus bill that was to be for the building of a new highway and rail tunnel between NJ and Manhattan because accepting it would hurt his chances for the presidential nomination? I don’t know how many jobs would have been created, but I read recently that the project would just be being completed now. There’s so much need for the tunnel that they’re now scrambling to find the money to build it, but the project isn’t expected to be completed for about eight years. It was all ready to go when Christie killed it.
So eventually the federal money allocated for that project went to build a high-speed rail system in CA. There were several other major projects elsewhere, including a regional rail system in southeastern and central MI, that that project beat out for the money. Southeastern and central MI would really come alive with a regional light rail system. The other projects that also lost out to the CA project probably would have spurred economic growth and made life easier in those areas too.
Another major transportation project that was allocated by the stimulus law, this one in FL, was killed by Gov. Rick Scott for purely ideological reasons. I don’t remember the specifics of it, but suffice it to say that building trades workers in Florida could have used the jobs it would have created.
The creation of 7,000 jobs for four years isn’t trivial, but it pales in comparison with the number of jobs that this Republican Congress and some Republican governors are keeping from happening because of Republican dogma, Republican ideology. This needs to be mentioned to those Building Trades unions folks.
I think your headline is backward.
DAMN. I just corrected it. Conspicuously. Thanks, Jack.
It must be remembered that, with few exceptions, jobs are not created by government spending. The government has to take the money from somewhere else to do the work, so that money is not going to work it would have if not taken by the government.
Infrastructure is one of those few exceptions, not because of the direct employment of construction workers or the businesses they, in turn, patronize, but in facilitating the transportation of goods and services.
Actually, as Krugman and other economists note regularly, there is a clear multiplier effect of government spending, through expenditures by the people who receive the money. Ask anyone who lives near a military base, or who is a real estate broker or car dealership owner near one of the major defense contractor operations.
Also, if the wealthy are not investing their money but simply parking it, it’s out of circulation and doing nothing for the economy, not to mention job creation.
“[There] is a clear multiplier effect of government spending, through expenditures by the people who receive the money.”
Of course there is. But you are neglecting the other side of the equation. The is a multiplier effect for the money NOT spent by those from whom it was taken.
“[If] the wealthy are not investing their money but simply parking it….”
Where are they “parking” it?