Union letter reiterates labor backing for ANWR drilling

Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A group of labor unions sent a letter to members of Congress this week expressing support for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Absent from the endorsement letter, however, was the signature of John Sweeney, president of the nation's largest labor organization, the AFL-CIO.

The letter followed up on a news conference last month announcing labor's position. Several labor leaders said then that Sweeney was firmly behind efforts to open ANWR.

The AFL-CIO only takes positions through its executive council or its conventions, held every two years, said Dan Duncan, a spokesman for the Maritime Trades Department.

The executive council is meeting in Boston this coming week. Attempts by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner to contact AFL-CIO officials familiar with the meeting's agenda were unsuccessful.

Last week's letter was signed by the 7-million-member Maritime Trades Department of the AFL-CIO and the 3-million-member Building and Construction Trades.

All but one of the signatory unions are affiliated with the AFL-CIO as well.

For unions signing the letter, the issue is jobs.

''ANWR will be explored and drilled by American workers, the oil transported through U.S.-built pipelines, shipped in U.S.-built vessels with American crews, refined and distributed in U.S. facilities, and its byproducts used by U.S. energy producers and U.S. consumers,'' the labor leaders wrote.

''Not only is today's technology more environmentally sound, but labor has for decades worked with employers in the oil and gas industry to promote safety, efficiency, and ecologically safe operations,'' the letter says.

It asks members of Congress to meet with labor leaders before they vote to block drilling.

Democrats in Congress, most of whom oppose ANWR drilling, could find it awkward to oppose organized labor, a longtime supporter of the party, on a major issue.

But so far, labor hasn't funded the kind of campaign launched by environmental groups, another mostly Democratic constituency that has made opposition to ANWR drilling its top issue in recent months.

Also signing the letter were the Teamsters union, the Masters Mates and Pilots, the Marine Engineers, the Iron Workers, the Sheet Metal Workers, the United Mine Workers, the Laborers, the Plumbers and Pipefitters, the Operating Engineers, and the Maritime Officers.

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