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Unions Saying Construction Too Dangerous Amidst Coronavirus

TransCanada/TC Energy is plowing ahead with Keystone XL construction plans, even though its mancamps are a clear public health risk to communities along the pipeline route.

Labor unions have supported Keystone XL and other pipelines on false job-creation promises. But even unions recognize that some jobs aren’t worth risking one’s life. Massachusetts labor unions are calling for a suspension of all but emergency construction projects:

The executive board of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council — an umbrella group of unions representing about 75,000 construction workers — voted unanimously to call for the suspension of all but emergency construction statewide, according to an e-mail the council sent to union leaders Tuesday.

A message sent by council president Frank Callahan said the only way to ensure worker safety amid the mounting coronavirus crisis is to shut down job sites entirely. Callahan said union leaders consulted a wide range of experts about ways for construction to continue safely, but found none.

“All point to the only decision that can be made,” he wrote. “The only way to protect the health and safety of our members, their families and the general public is to keep people apart. It is impractical and, in many cases, impossible to safely work on a construction project given the current state of affairs” [Tim Logan and Andrea Estes, “Citing Coronavirus, Construction Unions Urge a Statewide Halt to Building Projects,” Boston Globe, 2020.03.31].

One big carpenters union is telling its members not to go to work in Massachusetts Monday:

Thomas Flynn, executive director of the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, said members should not report to work starting on Monday, April 6.

“It has become apparent that working on construction sites in Massachusetts is abnormally dangerous, and that continuing to work on construction sites poses an immediate threat to the health and safety of my members and the public,” Flynn wrote.

…In an interview, Flynn said the group’s decision was “gut wrenching,” but necessary.

“It’s our responsibility to make sure that our members go to work and return safely,” he said. “We just can’t guarantee that” [Ryan Kath, “Carpenters Union to Members: Stop Working Because of ‘Abnormally Dangerous’ Conditions,” NBC Boston, 2020.04.03].

It’s one thing to be up shingling your own roof. It’s another to have massive projects requiring dozens or hundreds of workers laboring—and, in the case of Keystone XL, living—in close quarters. There’s a big debate over what functions remain essential in the time of coronavirus, but no matter how much Trump tries to raise gasoline prices, we’re not driving anywhere, so demand for oil is plummeting, and the Keystone XL pipeline is seeing its ever-shaky business case rendered utterly moot. We don’t need tar sands oil; we don’t need Keystone XL; we don’t need TransCanada’s mancamps spreading coronavirus to workers and neighbors alike.

7 Comments

  1. John 2020-04-04

    ‘The flu ended and the forgetting began.’ https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/influenza/?fb_share=1#part01

    We’ve been here before. We had the doubting Thomas/Tabetha politicians, the market failures, the overwhelmed medical supply lines, the shortages of nurses and doctors. The only fools proclaiming, ‘who could see it coming?’ are the willfully-blind who didn’t study history, or science, or have other alternative motivations.

  2. o 2020-04-04

    The denotation of “essential workers” doesn’t seem to be matching up with how we compensate those workers (or acknowledge their work outside of a pandemic). “Essential” seem to be going hand-in-hand with disenfranchised, or vulnerable all too often. Is it fair to look at these workers and say that “we are all in this together?” it feels more like they are being told to put their lives and safety (more so than usual) at risk because society needs them. The past cannot be changed, but once we come out the other side of this pandemic, will we remember this lesson on “essential” when it comes to reconstructing wage norms and social safety nets?

  3. Debbo 2020-04-04

    There are some lunkheads in Minnesota demanding that my GOP state senator get dock workers declared “essential” so they can get their docks put out on the lakes and go boating. 🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬

  4. Fairburn 2020-04-05

    Is THAT why NOem doesn’t want to shut down the state– because that would mean shutting down Keystone XL?

  5. Debbo 2020-04-05

    There are 5 unshutdown states right now – Nort and Sowt Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Arkansas. The other 45 are shutdown on some level.

    Some, like Georgia and Mississippi, nearly had to rise to the level of citizens’ revolt before their dimwitted GOP governors finally pulled the trigger.

    What does that say for the remaining govs, including Klueless Kristi? It ain’t pretty.

  6. o 2020-04-06

    I just saw a piece about how some workers are in a bind because they are being required to continue working and they feel unsafe; they do not know who to object to. Their boss is sayin work – who can they complain to?

    Again, to all the workers that think they do not need a union, that they do not need representation, that their boss is looking out for them, how much evidence do you need that you are WRONG. Our shareholder “capitalism” REQUIRES those owners to ignore/exploit workers to single-mindedly focus on the bottom line of profit. Even our government institutions bow to the owners, the “engines of the economy.”

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/workers-dont-know-who-to-turn-to-when-employers-insist-on-staying-open-during-the-pandemic_n_5e8b3996c5b6cc1e47791c7d

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