Labor leaders echo Chamber of Commerce jobs RX 

As 9.1 percent unemployment plagues America this Labor Day, major unions are clashing with a Democratic administration with which they normally would march lockstep. Echoing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, at least seven unions are begging the White House to abandon regulations and procedures that prevent jobs from being created or saved.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’ Texas unit wrote the EPA on June 16 on behalf of its 23,000 members. IBEW executive Jonathan Gardner warned that red tape “directly would jeopardize the jobs of approximately 1,500 IBEW members working at six different power plants across the state of Texas.” Gardner argued, “The shutdown of coal-fired units without any meaningful benefit to the environment is not justified.”

The 76,000-member United Mine Workers union estimates that power-plant closures directly could kill
54,151 jobs and indirectly destroy 197,140 others in America’s coal, utility, and railroad industries.

In an Aug. 1 letter to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Jon Wellinghoff and commissioners John Norris and Cheryl LaFleur wrote that “informal, preliminary assessment showed 40 GW of coal-fired generating capacity ‘likely’ to retire, with another 41 GW ‘very likely’ to retire.”

If Washington unplugs 81 gigawatts, it would dim America’s electrical capacity 8.1 percent, from 995 GW to 914. American Electric Power, Duke Energy and the Southern Company — among other utilities — declared that these rules would force them to close coal-fired generating stations. Padlocked power plants and scarcer electricity would debilitate America’s feeble economy and further imperil workers — unionized and otherwise.

R. Thomas Buffenbarger, president of the 720,000-member International Association of Machinists, penned a June 29 letter with Peter J. Bunce, CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. This labor-management duo pleaded with President Barack Obama to stop slamming corporate jets.

“We are perplexed over recent comments and actions questioning the value of corporate aircraft use and proposing tax changes that negatively would impact the entire general aviation industry,” Buffenbarger and Bunce wrote. “During the severe economic downturn in 2008, ill-informed criticism of corporate jets and business aviation exacerbated the challenges facing our industry, which led to depressed new aircraft sales and jeopardized very good, high-paying jobs throughout the United States. More than 20,000 highly skilled IAM members were laid off in this industry.”

The Obama administration has not opposed the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would transport petroleum from Canada’s oil sands to Texas’ refineries. Instead, it has studied this project into paralysis. The State Department favors it, while the EPA frowns — “a process that has gone on for more than two years,” complained the presidents of the Plumbing and Pipefitters, Operating Engineers, Laborers International, and Teamsters unions (with
2.6 million members among all four) last October. Eleven months onward, Washington still contemplates Keystone. These labor leaders denounce this “lost ground for thousands of workers who are sitting on the sidelines of our ailing national economy.”

“This project means jobs — and jobs for our members,” Teamsters’ chief economist, James Kimball told The Associated Press’ Matthew Daly. Keystone could launch some 118,000 new jobs, if it is approved. Meantime, while 14 million Americans wish they were workers, some in Big Labor now cry “Uncle!” at Big Government.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

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