Hoffa Backs Bush’s Plan to Despoil Alaska Refuge

by Charles Walker

Don’t look now, but the once heralded Teamster-Turtle coalition that sprang to life on Seattle’s streets during the popular anti-WTO demonstrations is now as cold and lifeless as yesterday’s roadkill.

The death notice was delivered March 28 at a Washington, D.C., press conference where Teamsters President James P. Hoffa called on Congress to open up part of the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to predatory exploitation by Big Oil. Joining Hoffa were officials from the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association and the Laborers International Union.

Apparently disregarding the tragic lessons of the Exxon/Valdez environmental disaster, Hoffa claims that the oil and gas profiteers will operate in an environmentally responsible way. Hoffa also has turned a blind eye to the oil companies’ predatory pricing and energy market manipulations, which forced even a few government regulators to weep crocodile tears.

Hoffa says opening up the coastal plains of Alaska for oil and gas drilling will bolster the economy, provide more jobs, and ensure “national security.” “In 1991, then Secretary of State James Baker said there were three reasons the U.S. was going to war with Iraq. They were jobs, jobs, jobs.” Hoffa said. “We fought that war to protect our supply of foreign oil because a threat to that supply means a threat to our economy’s stability and American job security.” Actually, most of the world rightly believes that the three issues that underlie the Persian Gulf War, and the ongoing strangulation of Iraq, are oil profits, oil profits, oil profits — making Baker a liar, and Hoffa, at best, a dupe.

Hoffa hopes to get working class support for his policy by promising that as many as 735,000 new jobs are at stake at a time when “there is economic recession darkening our doorstep.” Hoffa said that he expects to pick up 25,000 new members in drilling, construction, and transportation. And he promised that Alaskan exploitation would lead to “a steady flow of fuel, oil and gasoline to make this economy come back and come back strong.”

Hoffa’s Pipedream vs. Real Economics

Probably no economist would agree with Hoffa. The looming recession is part of capitalism’s boom and bust cycle, which periodically forces millions of workers into unemployment, despite the population’s ongoing need for food, clothing, shelter, and a modern living standard.

Even when the U.S. economy is expanding, there aren’t enough good, paying jobs to go around; that is, jobs that provide workers and their families with a secure future. And no wonder. Corporate America is constantly seeking ways to eliminate jobs, to “rationalize” production by technological innovations when it must, and by speed-up when it can get away with it. As a result, jobs that once paid one wage earner enough to raise a family on are all but museum curiosities.

Consequently, U.S. workers are working the longest workweek of any major industrial nation, and two-earner families are common. Nevertheless, U.S. workers’ share of the wealth they create has fallen yearly by hundreds of billions of dollars, as measured by the government’s own tally of the gross domestic product.

Hoffa’s support for the environmental rape of the wildlife refuge may not give the oil industry the leverage it needs to reap the far north bonanza. That’s because many Americans are opposed to the oil industry’s plans and its front-men, oil industry millionaires President Bush and Vice President Cheney. That opposition is for the moment at least pressuring some members of Congress to oppose Bush’s oil plans. The March 30 New York Times quoted Senator Harry Reid (Dem., Nevada) as saying, “He [Bush] recognizes that A.N. W.R. isn’t going to pass. The American people don’t want it.”

Blow to Hopes for “Blue-Green” Alliance

Hoffa’s support for Bush’s designs on Alaskan oil resources is certainly a blow to the hopes of environmentalists and young activists for an alliance at the top with the labor movement. Hopefully environmentalists and social activists will continue to seek out support among the unions’ rank and file. Clearly, substantial progress toward a cleaner, healthier society can’t happen without the support of the nation’s workers, especially those workers organized independently of Corporate America.

Hoffa’s insult to allies who can make a difference during fights with the bosses is more than short-sighted. It’s criminally shameful!

But even worse is Hoffa’s attempt to mislead workers into placing their hopes for a better life in the hands of the very bosses who workers have to struggle against every working day. Hoffa’s plan for more jobs didn’t originate with him. It’s the creation of the bosses, who always have jobs available when there’s profit aplenty for themselves.

Needed: A Real Jobs Plan

A real workers’ jobs plan doesn’t depend on the bosses; in fact, it rests on the understanding that only the powerful solidarity of workers can provide full employment and security by shortening the workweek as society’s needs are fulfilled, and sharing the social abundance fairly and democratically — rather than allowing the nation’s ruling circles to hoard the lion’s share for themselves.

Hoffa’s plan to make good, paying jobs dependent on soaring profits is no plan at all. In fact, why pay dues to an outfit that waits for the bosses to do what they are going to do anyway? Just like workers don’t need leaders to negotiate wage cuts and takeaways, workers don’t need leaders who don’t fight for jobs when the bosses don’t want to provide them!