Update, 2/27/13: LIUNA was unsuccessful in getting the AFL-CIO council to endorse Keystone XL. They tried for months (some would say years) to get all unions that are part of the AFL-CIO to support the Keystone XL. Instead, the AFL-CIO council sided with words and policies that Pres. Obama supports, made in the USA energy including domestic pipelines. TransCanada is foreign tarsands, going through foreign steel and refined by foreign interests. The AFL-CIO did NOT endorse Keystone XL.


We understand LIUNA is pushing other unions and Members of Congress to support the risky Keystone XL pipeline. We thought it was critical to get the research of LIUNA’s ties to anti-union groups in the public sphere.

Nebraska landowners and citizens have witnessed this troubling relationship first hand and are pleading with other unions to hold up the responsibility we all have to future generations. We cannot let businesses as usual–with oil companies pulling the strings–to go on without speaking up and taking action.

Since 2010, the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) has partnered with several anti-union organizations that are funded by the Koch brothers along with TransCanada to gain approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

In the Bold Report “LIUNA Partners with Koch Funded Group,” we go into more detail with sources for the troubling research on how deep the partnership lies between the LIUNA and Koch funded groups. Below are snapshots of the facts included in the report.

PDF Bold Report: LIUNA Partners with Koch Funded Groups

Many construction unions partner with industry to win approval for projects and secure work for their members; this is often appropriate and productive.

However, the industry and political partnerships that LIUNA has forged to gain approval of Keystone XL (KXL) seriously undermines workers’ rights and unions’ strength, and display a complete lack of concern for the broader labor movement or even the longer-term interests of LIUNA members.

In fact, their partnerships with the fossil fuel industry and far right political groups, namely Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), contribute to the vicious attacks on workers, unions and democracy.

TransCanada has a history of saying one thing and doing another. A perfect example is where they buy the steel for their pipelines–it is not majority made in the USA steel. The Steelworkers opposed TransCanada’s first pipeline because the majority of the steel came from India.

One of TransCanada’s latest misleading statements is the KXL tarsands pipeline will do nothing to affect climate change. The KXL pipeline is equivalent to 12 coal fired power plants in terms of carbon emissions. As described in a recent Oil Change report, “there is 24 percent more CO2 embedded in a barrel of tar sands bitumen than in a barrel of light oil.” In addition to this extracting and processing a barrel of tar sands is between 3.2 and 4.5 times more carbon intensive than extracting a barrel of conventional oil. Anyone that is being honest and using science knows this pipeline expands tarsands and affects climate change.

Moving to clean energy does right by all of our families, the economy and future generations. Unions have led on the most critical fights in our country’s history. Let’s come together to make sure the legacy we leave is worth sharing. Let’s not let big oil groups and extreme-right donors get in the way of what is best for our communities.

LIUNA’s Partnerships with Koch-Funded Groups In Support of KXL Pipeline
Americans for Prosperity, ALEC, Nebraskans for Jobs, Oil & Gas Industry

LIUNA’s Partnerships with Koch-Funded Groups and Oil & Gas Industry

  • TransCanada and Koch: TransCanada and Koch Industries’ subsidiaries have a number of overlapping relations, including interconnected board of directors and interconnected financial interests. Koch currently processes about 25% of tar sands oil, and is expected to refine a significant portion of tar oil from KXL. Both Koch and TransCanada are members the American Petroleum Institute (API). Koch Industries also sits on the board of ALEC.
  • LIUNA and NJEI: LIUNA Local 1140 and TransCanada partner to establish Nebraskans for Jobs and Energy Independence (NJEI) to advocate for the Keystone XL pipeline. Local 1140 Business Manager, Ron Kaminski, serves as President and member of the three-member board of directors. NJEI’s line has been: construction of KXL would create tens of thousands of jobs, despite a number of reputable studies proving this untrue.
  • TransCanada and NJEI: On the three-member NJEI Board with LiUNA leader Ron Kaminski is Beth Jensen, Director of Government Relations for TransCanada and an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Task Force member, and Joseph D. Kohout, a TransCanada lobbyist whose firm has spent almost $1million in lobbying Nebraska elected officials. Kohout also acts as Secretary-Treasurer for NJEI. They use shared powerpoints swapping out logos at “education” forums. Typically with a 501c4 nonprofit, the board cannot profit from the goals of the organization. Clearly TransCanada, Kissel Lobby Firm and Liuna would all profit calling into question their tax status.
  • NJEI and Platte Institute: NJEI and LIUNA undertake joint activities with Platte Institute; Platte Institute is an anti-union think-tank in Nebraska that is commonly known as a front institute for Americans for Prosperity and the Koch brothers. Together, NJEI and Platte have organized pro-Keystone XL public meetings and rallies. NJEI and LIUNA (via Kaminski in his role as Business Manager of LIUNA Local 1140) partner with Platte on articles about KXL. LIUNA has posted articles on the Platte site, alongside virulent anti-union pieces.
  • NJEI and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC): Beth Jensen, one of the founders and board members of NJEI (the LIUNA-TransCanada organization) is also a Natural Resources Task Force member for ALEC, and attends their annual meetings along with representatives from the Americans for Prosperity and the American Petroleum Institute.
  • API, AFP and ALEC: The American Petroleum Institute (API) provides funding to Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and all three organizations work together to promote extraction of North American oil and gas, a rollback of environmental regulation and attacks on union and workers’ rights. API’s largest political donations in 2011-2012 were to legislators who have voted against working family/union issues over 80% of the time during their political careers. In addition to financially supporting ALEC, API, TransCanada (Beth Jensen) and Americans for Prosperity all attend ALEC’s annual meetings and are represented on ALEC’s Natural Resources committee. API also testified in opposition to the citizen recommendations in the Public Service Commission.  API opposed the requirement to provide first-responders with MSDS on tarsands before a spill. This is basic safety for first responders and API pushed against public information being disclosed.
  • LIUNA and API: LIUNA and other building trade unions forged a partnership with the oil and gas industry in 2009 to develop North American energy sources, via the Oil and Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee (OGILMC). Sean McGarvey, President of the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, is President of the OGILMC and Jack Gerard, President of the American Petroleum Institute, is Secretary-Treasurer. At the birth of Occupy Wall Street, LIUNA and the Building Trades joined forces with the oil and gas industry (the 1%), via OGILMC, to produce “Jobs for the 99%;” a series of ads that used the rhetoric of Occupy Wall Street and the 99% to advocate for the construction of KXL. Soon after these ads were released, OWS released a statement condemning LIUNA’s co-optation of OWS and the 99%.
  • NJEI and Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA): NJEI became a member of CEA in 2011 and has actively advocated for KXL in partnership with CEA, including co-sponsoring meetings and collectively gathering and submitting pro-KXL comments to the State Department. CEA is not a consumer organization as it claims to be – it is a front group for the oil and gas industry, funded by the American Petroleum Institute and founded by a lobbying firm (HBW Resources) that works for the oil and gas industry. Michael Whatley is an oil lobbyist for HBW Resources but also acts as Executive Vice President for CEA. Whatley and NJEI (via LIUNA Local Leader Kaminski) team up regularly to advocate for KXL. Whatley also works with ALEC and the Heartland Institute.

Will LIUNA Fight for Workers, Fellow Unions and Democracy or Fight Alongside Koch, AFP and ALEC?

Proponents of KXL have described the construction of the pipeline as a fight for energy security and jobs. But KXL is much more than a fight over one pipeline project. As U.S. energy demand levels off and supplies of easy-to-access conventional oil dwindle, the only way the fossil fuel industry can grow and expand its political power is by supplying highly-polluting, risky-to-extract fossil fuels to energy markets outside the U.S.

In short, the oil industry and the Koch brothers need KXL to expand the tar sands and increase their profits. As a result, the fight around KXL has serious implications for democracy, workers and unions in the U.S. It is a fight over how much power the fossil fuel industry will have in American politics. If the fossil fuel industry wins, they aren’t just expanding extreme forms of fossil fuels at the expense of workers, communities, farmers, indigenous people, and the environment, they will expand their control over U.S. politics, repress democracy, deepen social and economic inequality, and destroy unions.

Therefore, unions’ role in this debate marks a choice between moving democracy and power into the control of wealthy, corporate hands or moving democracy and power towards workers, unions, and communities across the United States.