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AFL-CIO boss Trumka struggles to put spin on Biden’s big job-cutting FU to unions

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The head of the powerful AFL-CIO criticized President Joe Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, saying that it cost at least 1,000 union jobs while suggesting Washington politicians don’t fully understand the fallout.

“I wish he hadn’t done that on the first day because the Laborers’ International was right. It did and it will cost us jobs in the process,” Richard Trumka said in an interview with Axios’ Jonathan Swan that was aired on HBO Sunday night, appearing to squirm and shift uncomfortably.


Unions have long been an anchor of support for the Democratic Party, and Trumka himself is a Biden backer. Biden killed off the pipeline on his first day in office, however, just as he pledged to do during his campaign.

In the interview, Trumka also told Swan that should Biden sign executive actions in the future that will cost union members their jobs, he should have a plan in place to replace them in the same regions where they were lost.

“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,” said Trumka.

“If you’re looking at a pipeline and you’re saying we’re going to put it down, now what are you going to do to create the same good-paying jobs in that area?” the AFL-CIO boss added.

He went on to suggest that lawmakers in the nation’s capital don’t fully understand the negative impact of destroying an entire economic sector in one region of the country.

“You know, when they laid off at the mines back in Pennsylvania, they told us they were going to train us to be computer programmers. And I said, ‘Where are the computer programmer jobs at?’ ‘Uh, they’re in, uh, Oklahoma and they’re in Vegas and they’re here,’” Trumka noted. 

“And I said, ‘So, in other words, what we’re going to be is unemployed miners and unemployed computer programmers as well,” he continued. “I think what doesn’t get understood quite enough in the country, particularly in D.C. politics, is that that culture is very, very important to the people who live there.”

Meanwhile, two Democratic senators who initially voted with Republicans on an amendment to overturn Biden’s order and restore Keystone pipeline construction flipped their vote late last week.

Sens. Joe Manchin (W. Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) reversed themselves and joined the other 48 members of their party to kill an amendment offered by Tester’s GOP college from Montana, Steve Daines.

The amendment was part of a COVID-19 relief measure that initially passed 52-48. However, after Manchin and Tester switched their votes, the amendment was killed by a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris, as BizPac Review reported.

“Early this morning, while the American people were asleep, Senate Democrats chose to flip-flop on their support for my Keystone XL pipeline amendment, as well as @SenatorBraun’s amendment to support fracking,” an angry Daines tweeted early Friday, referencing Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.).

He added that Manchin and Tester “chose to stand with Green New Deal radicals over American jobs & blue-collar workers. They chose to stand against tax revenue for counties & low energy costs for families. Montanans & the American people will know where they stand. But also know this, I won’t stop fighting.”

Oddly, Manchin had already publicly expressed support for overturning Biden’s order.

“Well, at the bottom line, I disagree. I respectfully disagree with the president and the executive order on doing away with the Keystone pipeline,” Manchin said last week.

“I’ve seen a train blow up in West Virginia carrying that crude. I’ve seen tanker cars explode going through towns. It’s much safer in that pipeline than it is coming across the road or the rail. If they think they’re going to stop that product, that’s a heavy crude we need in our refineries,” he added. “The bottom line is in that, I’m an all-in energy person…and we have to have energy basically and not depend on foreign energy. So we have to have the heavy crude. I rather it come from Canada than I would from Venezuela.”

Major trade unions who endorsed Biden for president were indignant over his decision to shut down Keystone.

Jon Dougherty

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