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No, Exxon Mobil, You Are Not the 99 Percent

J. Mijin Cha

What the 99 percent is not: big oil companies that posted $10.3 billion in income last quarter.

Yet, a group called the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor Management Committee, which has the heads of the American Petroleum Institute, Marathon Oil and Exxon Mobil on its leadership, is behind a website called in support of the Keystone XL pipeline. In an attempt to co-opt the Occupy Wall Street protests, it claims that “Celebrities are taking over D.C.” and that the Hollywood elite are preventing jobs for the 99 percent. The website is co-sponsored by the Building Trades Union.

In response, the General Assembly at Occupy Wall Street passed a resolution to disassociate from Jobs for the 99. The resolution points to the negative environmental impacts, destruction to First Nation communities, and the killing of long-term, existing jobs if the pipeline were to be built. It also expresses solidarity with the unions that oppose Keystone XL and the rank and file members of all unions that have publicly expressed their opposition to the pipeline.

Apart from deceptively claiming to support the 99 percent, Jobs for the 99 advances the false notion that we must choose either job creation or environmentally sustainability. The Keystone project will promote one of the most destructive forms of resource extraction methods by linking tar sand oil reserves to U.S. refineries. To detract from that fact, supporters of the Keystone pipeline claim that the project will create 20,000 private sector jobs. Considering the construction industry unemployment rate rose to almost 14 percent last month, several points higher than the overall unemployment rate, any job creation seems alluring.

Except, an independent analysis of the project shows that there would be far fewer jobs created and the project could, in fact, kill more jobs than it creates. Plus, any jobs created would be temporary, a fact stated in the TransCanada proposal. Yet, TransCanada has succeeded in pitting the Building Trades against environmentalists and thereby splitting opposition to the project -- a classic example of divide and conquer.

Instead of working against each other, labor unions and environmentalists should join forces and focus on their common goal of creating a clean economic future. The Blue-Green Alliance is an example of how these two forces can combine to advocate for policies that make the built and natural environment more sustainable and create good, green-collar jobs.

With over 2.7 million people working in green jobs, it’s clear that we don’t have to choose between job creation or environmental sustainability: we can have both.