Unions back oil export bill, break with AFL-CIO

Two labor unions came out Wednesday in support of a House bill to end the ban on oil exports, breaking with the country’s largest union federation.

The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and the International Union of Operating Engineers signed onto a letter with 20 business and industry groups supporting Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) bill to open the United States’s crude oil market to the world for the first time in 40 years.

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“Opening global markets to U.S. producers will support added domestic production that will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and contribute tens of billions of GDP dollars in the supply chain within the next few years,” the groups wrote to leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“At the same time, we will put downward pressure on domestic fuel prices, while we provide our allies and trading partners with an alternative to sourcing energy from unfriendly and unstable sources,” they said.

The unions, along with the groups joining them on the letter, are involved in the shale oil industry, which stands to benefit from new, international oil demand.

The position expressed by LIUNA and the Operating Engineers union sets them apart from the AFL-CIO and the United Steelworkers, the main union for oil refinery employees.

They both declared early in 2014 that they would oppose lifting the ban, under the belief that it would increase oil prices for refiners and threaten jobs in that industry.

“Lifting the ban would not only prove detrimental to the jobs of the men and women employed at U.S. refineries, but also to the communities that rely on the tax base generated from these wages,” the Steelworkers wrote in a joint letter with the Sierra Club in June.

LIUNA and the Operating Engineers are members of the AFL-CIO.

The endorsement from the two unions also puts them at odds with most congressional Democrats.

Both unions also clashed with Democrats over the Keystone XL oil pipeline, when the unions endorsed a Republican-backed bill to bypass President Obama and approve the project.