King’s final march

Fox Valley Labor News
staff reports
Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Decades after his death, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t have possibly know we would remember his famous dream and his fight for civil and human rights — rights that have always resonated with organized labor.

Union members can never forget that Martin Luther King Jr. was supporting striking sanitation workers when he was killed in the spring of 1968 in Atlanta, Ga.

He was there protesting with 1,300 AFSCME sanitation workers who were on strike. Marchers in the streets carried “I am a man” signs to emphasize workers were human beings deserving of a respectable living wage.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders said King spoke out against the kind of capitalism that sacrifices people for the sake of profits.
“We must speak out just as forcefully against an economy in which so many working women and men are struggling to care for their families, even as they work harder than ever,” Saunders explained.

King had much to say on matters of social justice and how it might be achieved, and that message has relevance all days of the year, not just when we observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Nationwide, organized labor came together to mourn, celebrate and march in memory of Dr. King.

The AFL-CIO held a 5-day Martin Luther King Jr. Civil and Human Rights Conference in Atlanta to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King and to commemorate the accomplishments of the civil rights movement.


“This conference reinforces the historic bond between the labor and civil rights movements and honors Dr. King’s vision that collective action — whether at the voting booth or in the workplace — will mobilize participants to continue their work in order to make his dream a reality,” the union said.

Laborers’ International Union of North America General President Terry O’Sullivan said Dr. King’s legacy of is one of remarkable strides toward equality in our country; strides that many generations never saw and could only imagine. Nearly a half-century ago Dr. King identified the critical flaw of economic injustice and now, that flaw continues.

“That is why the union movement was among his most fearless advocates and why he died standing with unions. That is why the union movement today must grow in numbers and strength,” O’Sullivan stressed.

“Brothers and sisters, as we proudly honor Dr. King’s legacy, I urge each of us to use his inspiration to re-dedicate ourselves to what we stand for — justice, honor and strength — and to his mission of equality of all and economic justice for all. Without equality, our honor and strength is undermined,” O’Sullivan added.

House again approves Keystone XL, now it’s up to the White House

Fox Valley Labor News
staff reports
Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015

keystone xl pipeline

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The House voted Jan. 9 to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, setting the stage for a Senate vote this week and a face-off with the White House over final approval of the controversial pipeline.

The bill passed by a vote of 266 to 153 — more than enough to pass, but still not a veto-proof majority. This marked the first House vote on Keystone in the 114th Congress, though the lower chamber previously voted nine times to approve it. The Senate was expected to begin voting on its own Keystone approval legislation Jan. 12.

Democrats, for the most part, continued to oppose legislation that bypassed the executive decision-making process on Keystone XL. And they noted the White House has said it will veto the legislation.

Locally, Congressman Bill Foster (IL-11) voted against the bill to preserve environmental protections for Keystone Pipeline, adding that the Nebraska Supreme Court decision took a step in that direction.
Nebraska’s ruling cleared the way for the proposed pipeline’s route through the state. The Obama administration had been waiting for the

Nebraska ruling to render its own decision on the pipeline, which is still forthcoming.

Foster said he looked forward to the completion of the regulatory approval process for this project, yet he still voted ‘no.’

“However, I voted against this legislation because it would give Keystone XL an unnecessary exemption from the environmental permitting processes,” Foster explained.

After the Nebraska ruling became public, LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan released a statement saying he wanted President Obama to “immediately resume the National Interest Determination that he needlessly suspended last year and Democrats in Congress must stop all the excuses and end the shameful politics used to block Keystone.”

North America’s Building Trades Unions was pleased that a “bi-partisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives recognizes the potential for job creation, economic growth, and energy independence that will accrue through the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.”

It added that the project has been the most analyzed and studied infrastructure project in the history of our nation.

“The American public has long been clamoring for increased bi-partisan cooperation and accord. We express our hope that, once the Senate has approved this bill, President Obama embraces that sentiment as well and signs this legislation into law,” the North America’s Building Trades Unions added.

Congressman Foster also voted in favor of an amendment to require the project to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, a fund which is used to clean up after pipeline oil spills and fires on U.S. soil. Unfortunately this amendment was defeated on a largely party-line basis.

“This legislation carves out special exemptions that would allow a Canadian company to cross the entire United States without complying with the environmental laws that U.S. energy companies abide by; without requiring that they pay into the oil spill liability trust fund; and without guaranteeing that any of the oil pumped through the Keystone pipeline would stay in the United States,” Foster added.

Labor leader O’Sullivan said Americans concerned about energy independence and working men and women eager to build our nation’s energy future are encouraged by this progress.
“It’s time to move forward to unlock energy and good construction careers,” he added.