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Alaska Wilderness League vs. The Bush Administration: 2001-2002

Labor Helps Defeat Bush & Big Oil

In 2001, CCI was retained by the Alaska Wilderness League to mobilize support from labor unions across the country to oppose President Bush's and Big Oil's drive to get Congress to allow drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The Refuge, a unique and biologically rich region, set aside by President Eisenhower in 1960, is a great national treasure and the last place in North America where the full spectrum of Arctic life is protected. It has been the sacred land to the Gwich'in, America's northernmost native people, for at least 20,000 years. It contains the most important on-shore denning area in the U.S. for polar bear mothers and their cubs. It is also home to countless grizzly bears, caribou, musk oxen, wolves, migratory birds and other wildlife.

Unfortunately, Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa and some building trades union leaders were pushing the oil companies' agenda claiming it would produce jobs. Environmental and other public interest groups were growing increasingly apprehensive that, unless there was a movement of other unions opposing drilling in ANWR, the AFL-CIO would be pressured to support the position of the Teamsters and building trades.

CCI produced a report, "The Arctic Refuge, the 'Filthy Four' and Organized Labor" that was posted on the Internet. And we produced a widely disseminated four-page brochure captioned "BIG OIL'S BANQUET: GREED AND BLIGHT IN VERY BITE — ONLY YOU CAN STOP IT! —"

The brochure and another leaflet captioned, "SAY NO to BUSH and BIG OIL!" were mailed to thousands of unions in CCI's national database along with a cover letter signed by Ray Rogers and Harry Kelber, editor of the Labor Educator.

A big breakthrough came early when Richard Wagner, then president of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 1183 representing New York City board of election employees, introduced a motion on the floor of CWA's national convention on July 10, 2001 opposing oil drilling in ANWR. The motion passed unanimously and put one of the largest and most prestigious national unions officially on record in opposition. Many other national and local labor organizations joined CWA including, the Service Employees International Union; National Writers Union; United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America; United Steelworkers of America, District 11, and National Federation of Independent Unions/LIUNA, AFL-CIO. Union locals, councils and associations across the nation representing teachers, healthcare professionals, auto workers, carpenters, electricians, paper workers, postal workers, transportation workers, musicians, food and commercial workers, clothing and textile workers and others joined the bandwagon in opposition.

On March 13, 2002, Ray Rogers did an interview with a Capitol Hill publication, Face to Face forum on where he discussed efforts to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from Big Oil and highlights what a cleaner, safer national energy policy should entail.

Read the Face to Face Interview Transcript

On April 10, in the Upper Senate Park in Washington, DC, Ray Rogers spoke at a rally sponsored by the Alaska Coalition, the Alaska Wilderness League, Defenders of Wildlife, the National Wildlife Federation, The Wilderness Society and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

The other speakers were Senators Ron Wyden, Joseph Lieberman, Debbie Stabenow and Paul Wellstone; environmental leaders Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife; Mark Van Putten, president of the National Wildlife Federation; William Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society, and Gene Karpinski, executive director of U.S. PIRG.

Ray said:

"Just as it's wrong to cross a union picket line, it's no less wrong to support oil companies crossing the line into the Refuge at the expense of the Gwich'in people, a fragile ecosystem and its wildlife.

"The President and a few misinformed labor leaders have promised hundreds of thousands of good, secure jobs from an industry that in the past 20 years has eliminated about one million jobs. What a joke!

"Workers need real jobs, not fake jobs, and real jobs will come from a sound energy policy based on conservation and renewable, clean energy technologies.

"I applaud the courageous members of Congress, labor leaders and environmentalists for standing up to one of the most anti-worker, anti-environment presidents this nation has ever seen and some of the most corrupt and irresponsible corporations the world has ever seen — to prevent them from invading our public lands for selfish, private gain.

"ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, Phillips Petroleum and BP with their horrible records of complicity in gross human rights abuses; despoilment of the environment; illegal toxic waste dumping; race, age and sex discrimination; safety violations leading to numerous deaths and injuries; price gouging and cheating our public treasuries out of hundreds of millions of dollars in oil and gas royalties and thus revenues earmarked for education and other essential public services should never be allowed to set foot in the refuge or on any of our other public land treasures.

"Corporate criminals like them should be punished not rewarded.

"Shame on you, President Bush. Shame on you, Jimmy Hoffa. And shame on you, Big Oil — and praise to all of you who would stop them."

On April 18, the U.S. Senate, by a vote of 54-46 defeated an amendment to the Energy Policy Act that would have allowed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Organized labor had played an important role working alongside committed environmental and public interest groups to defeat Bush and Big Oil!