Earlier this month, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka endorsed the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. His justification was that it would create jobs — albeit 35 of them, according to the State Department — for his members in the building trades union. Trumka’s stance further widened the gap between organized labor and progressives who care about the environment, all because of widespread assumptions about the value of work.
In a society where wages are stagnant and good work is hard to find, it’s logical for unions to grab what they can. But such desperation also forces them to defend projects, such as the Keystone pipeline, that are also unequivocally harmful, and that run counter to core values of the progressive movement.