Unions break with AFL-CIO, protest Dakota Access Pipeline
OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Hundreds of union members and supporters gathered outside of a Wells Fargo branch in downtown Oakland this afternoon to call on the bank to divest from the Dakota Access Pipeline, an oil pipeline project in North
Dakota that has become a flash point for environmental and Native American advocates.
"No Dakota Access Pipeline, water is life," the protesters chanted as they arrived, referring to concerns that the project could pollute drinking water in the area, including on land occupied by the Standing Rock
Heated protests have been trying to halt the pipeline's construction in North Dakota on land Sioux leaders say should belong to the tribe. Outgoing President Barack Obama said last week that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was reviewing alternative routes for the project, though protesters are seeking it's halt.
Wells Fargo is one of several banks investing in the pipeline, leading activists to target it as well.
The Oakland branch was adorned with "No DAPL" and "Stand with Standing Rock" banners this afternoon as a jubilant crowd gathered around it.
More banners hung from the third story of the Comerica Bank building across the street reading, "Dear Wells Fargo, you can't drink oil, divest from DAPL now, stand with Standing Rock."
One union member, a nurse with the California Nurses Association, told the crowd that she saw the cause as a way of protecting public health, which is her duty as a health care professional. She likened the cause to the recent movement to block coal exports from the Port of Oakland.
"I'm really proud of all of us for being here and taking a stand on this very important issue," she said.
The hundreds of union janitors, security guards, nurses and teachers broke with the AFL-CIO's support of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The protest included a theater piece of a "black snake" symbolic of the pipeline.
The local unions cited President-Elect Donald Trump's promise to pull out of the Paris Climate agreement, as one of the factors in deciding to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who have been protecting water, land and sacred burial grounds and artifacts in the months-long protest.
“As union members, we believe in the fundamental right of all workers to a safe and dignified livelihood. But we need not just jobs and paychecks, but clean air, water, and soil for ourselves and for our children’s children,” said Felipe Cuevas, President of the City of Oakland Chapters of SEIU 1021.
Workers with United Service Workers West (USWW) and the organization, Climate Workers, were also involved with the protest.
Nurses with the California Nurses Association (CNA) have said there are safety and health concerns involved with the building of the pipeline that would be detrimental to the Native American community.
The action comes after a schism within the labor community after the national AFL-CIO came out in support of the pipeline. However, the opposition labor leaders said they envision a labor movement that takes the ecology into consideration and repairs "damage" rather than causes it.