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As Oregon State University’s Coalition of Graduate Employees, Local 6069, one of whose driving tenets is to promote the mutual interests of all working people, we urgently call on the AFL-CIO to withdraw its support of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The construction of the DAPL violates the rights of Indigenous nations to defend their own treaties and disregards their inherent sovereignty guaranteed by congressional plenary power. Such action perpetuates a more than 500 year history of settler-colonialism and dispossession.
Despite the AFL-CIO’s claim that the DAPL “addresses the threat of climate change” because transporting crude oil through pipelines is “safer” than by other means, we recognize that building a pipeline where none has existed has environmental consequences. The proposed siting of the pipeline creates a contamination threat to the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation’s water resources and infringes upon treaty-protected fishing rights, thus violating the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty’s guarantee of “undisturbed use and occupation” of the Reservation. The placement of the pipeline above the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation, where sacred burial grounds are located and protected by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), and where sacred ceremonial gatherings are protected by American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIFRA), jeopardizes valuable cultural resources of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
A full environmental impact assessment has not taken place for the DAPL, nor has adequate consultation occurred with Indigenous nations who reside along the pipeline route. To invalidate and virtually ignore the voices of Indigenous nations is a direct contradiction to the AFL-CIO’s aim to empower individuals and communities. Moreover, the use of violence against native peoples through pepper spray and attack dogs during peaceful prayer gatherings mimics the scenes of cultural genocide to which Indigenous peoples of this land have been continuously subjugated for 524 years. In its mission statement AFL-CIO states: “We resolve to fulfill the yearning of the human spirit for liberty, justice and community; to advance individual and associational freedom; to vanquish oppression, privation and cruelty in all their forms; and to join with all persons, of whatever nationality or faith, who cherish the cause of democracy and the call of solidarity, to grace the planet with these achievements.” We find AFL-CIO’s support of the DAPL’s activities incongruent with this mission statement. As union members, we refuse to stand back and silence our concerns for Indigenous communities who have always resided in what is now the path of the DAPL.
Numerous AFL-CIO affiliated union bodies stand in solidarity with Indigenous nations and oppose the DAPL, including the Amalgamated Transit Union; Communications Workers of America; National Nurses United; National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981; United Electrical Workers; ; and the Labor Coalition for Community Action, which includes the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and Pride at Work. Non- AFL- CIO unions including the California Faculty Association, Industrial Workers of the World; IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus; New York State Nurses Association SEIU 503 OPEU; Border Agricultural Workers are all in support of the Standing Rock Sioux and the over 300 other Indigenous nations who oppose the construction of the DAPL. We, Oregon State University’s Coalition of Graduate Employees, Local 6069, stand in solidarity with these other forward thinking and socially responsible bodies in support of the protection of the sovereignty of Indigenous communities.
Coalition of Graduate Employees
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