Dilemma for Democrats: AFL-CIO Comes Out in Favor of Dakota Access Pipeline


Unfortunately, last week, the Obama administration shoved the debate over the Dakota Access Pipeline out of legal and regulatory channels and into the political arena.

Just minutes after federal Judge James Boasberg (himself an Obama appointee) sided with the pipeline with a scathing rebuttal to accusations made environmental extremist group Earthjustice on behalf of the tribe, the Obama administration pulled approval for the thousand feet or so of pipe crossing the Lake Oahe reservoir.

The tribal and environmental activists cheered the move, but it puts Democrats in a real dilemma. The pipeline may drive a wedge between two important factions of their base. Namely, organized labor and the environmentalists.

A wedge which just got a little sharper today. The AFL-CIO, one of the loudest and most influential voices in the world of organized labor, just sided with the pipeline. Here’s the statement from union President Richard Trumka:

The AFL-CIO supports pipeline construction as part of a comprehensive energy policy that creates jobs, makes the United States more competitive and addresses the threat of climate change. Pipelines are less costly, more reliable and less energy intensive than other forms of transporting fuels, and pipeline construction and maintenance provides quality jobs to tens of thousands of skilled workers.

We believe that community involvement in decisions about constructing and locating pipelines is important and necessary, particularly in sensitive situations like those involving places of significance to Native Americans. However, once these processes have been completed, it is fundamentally unfair to hold union members’ livelihoods and their families’ financial security hostage to endless delay. The Dakota Access Pipeline is providing over 4,500 high-quality, family supporting jobs.

Furthermore, trying to make climate policy by attacking individual construction projects is neither effective nor fair to the workers involved.  The AFL-CIO calls on the Obama Administration to allow construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline to continue.


The AFL-CIO isn’t the first organized labor group to support the pipeline. The pipeline workers themselves are union, and LiUNA has been active in supporting the project.

If you’re wondering why North Dakota’s Democrats – specifically U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp – have been so reticent to speak out on the Dakota Access issue, this is why.

It’s a political quandary for them.