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Actual Co-Opting of the 99% Movement, for the Tar Sands Pipeline

I’ve been wary of throwing around charges of co-opting Occupy Wall Street, because I think people are using the term very loosely. If a member of Congress is asked a direct question about OWS, and they answer in response that they support it, how exactly is that co-opting? The same with words of encouragement from some progressive organizations. Is #OccupySupply, the work being done here, an example of co-opting? I don’t really get the claim, it feels like more of a catch-all.

However, I can say pretty confidently that the Building Trades Unions are flat-out co-opting OWS with their new initiative to try and get the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline approved. The building trades support the dirty energy pipeline because it means some temporary jobs for them. The public health and environmental issues are not of their concern. So they’ve been in favor of the pipeline for some time.

And now, they’re explicitly using the language and imagery of the OWS movement to try and sell it. Their new website is called Jobs for the 99%. See if you notice the biases at work here:

Hollywood’s elite 1% should stop flying to DC and speaking out against jobs that help the other 99% of America!

But you CAN make your voice heard.

Tell the White House to support Keystone XL.

Somehow, it’s only Holly-weird that is upset about a 1,7000-mile pipeline facilitating the burning of massive amounts of carbon, not teachers, grandmothers, and apparently the entire state of Nebraska, that liberal Gomorrah.

There’s also a “facts page” on the site about Keystone XL, extolling the jobs, economic growth, and local tax revenue benefits of the pipeline. It says that a Project Labor Agreement ensures “safety and quality construction” as well as living wages and benefits for the workers. It alleges that the pipeline will “help reduce our dependency on oil from the Middle East,” and then in the same breath, it says that if the pipeline is stopped, Canada will simply sell its oil to Europe or Asia. Actually, they’ll do that anyway; the oil will go to the global marketplace, not directly into the gas tanks of Americans.

The site is paid for by America’s Building Trades Unions and something called the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee.

Apparently, these groups think that Americans are so stupid that they will buy the lighting of the fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet as a key initiative of the 99%. That doesn’t happen to be why people are angry; in fact, it’s just the opposite, that deals like this can be made with a disregard for the health and safety of the citizenry. This is a really weak effort.

The building trades unions are part of the AFL-CIO. I’d like to see them clarify the record here.

UPDATE: A spokesman for the AFL-CIO declined to comment on the matter.

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David Dayen

David Dayen