But Trumka nonetheless lamented the ultra-politicized debate unfolding around the pipeline, urging stakeholders on both sides of the issue to seek common ground.
“We cannot have a trust-building conversation about it unless opponents of the pipeline recognize that construction jobs are real jobs — good jobs — and supporters of the pipeline recognize that tar sands oil raises real issues in terms of climate change,” he said.
Unions — a key part of President Obama’s support base — are divided on the pipeline.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Teamsters, the Laborers’ International Union, the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters for the United States and Canada and others support the pipeline. But other labor groups, including the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Transport Workers Union, oppose the proposed pipeline.
Nonetheless, union support for the pipeline is one of a number of politically thorny issues Obama will have to weigh when making a final decision on the project. At the same time, environmental groups — another key source of support for Obama — are vehemently opposed to the pipeline, raising concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and oil spills, among other things.
Republicans secured inclusion in the payroll-tax-cut package of a measure requiring Obama to make a decision on the pipeline by Feb. 21.
While the White House and administration officials have said the GOP-backed measure leaves Obama little choice but to reject the pipeline, Republicans and industry groups have launched an aggressive lobbying campaign to pressure the president to approve the project. They argue that the pipeline will create scores of jobs and boost the ailing economy.