AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka gave an interview to the Milwaukee Express over the weekend. It characterized his position on the US-Canada pipeline project thusly:

Unlike many raised in coal country, however, Trumka acknowledges global warming. “Do I believe there’s global climate change out there? Yes, I do. I think the facts support that, and I think that we as a nation and as a world have to address the problem and correct it—so that our grandkids and our great-grandkids and their great-grandkids can have a quality of life that’s sustainable.”

But that doesn’t mean he opposes the Keystone XL oil pipeline, current bête noir of the environmental movement. Although the AFL-CIO hasn’t directly backed Keystone, it has endorsed “pipelines in general,” says Trumka, who argues that the pipeline will have “a smaller carbon footprint” than other methods of transporting those petroleum products. (Emphasis added)

The nation would be better served, he says, by reducing “seeps and leaks” from existing oil facilities, “which represent a bigger hazard to the environment.” Would that create jobs? “Far more than the pipeline itself—about 125,000 jobs a year. But it would also be a win-win. The environmentalists agree with us on that, we should clean up the leaks and the seeps.”

Well, if Trumka is not opposed to the Keystone project and he believes that it will have a “smaller carbon footprint” than alternative ways of getting fuel, then why notgo ahead and support it?  There is no reason why we cannot do that and his idea of reducing leakage from existing facilities. Especially since some of his coalition’s  member unions do back the pipeline project.

Well, that is answered further down in the interview:

This year, he’s naming committees to create a new (AFL-CIO) convention agenda now—and they will include not only labor leaders but “our progressive partners, our allies” from the environmental movement, the civil rights and women’s movements, academia, as well as rank-and-file workers. (Emphasis added)

This is one of the more interesting if little-remarked upon trends in the labor movement of the last decade: The extent to which its top leadership has become enmeshed with the environmental movement. It is so extensive it is even causing Big Labor to push back against its own member unions on environmental issues.