Unions and Companies Confront Duluth City Council on Pipeline

Dozens of local companies tied to the pipeline industry stood their ground yesterday in a hard-hitting news conference aimed squarely at the Duluth City Council.  Their beef? A “feel good” resolution supporting protesters of the North Dakota Access Pipeline project unanimously passed by city councilors six weeks ago without any input from an industry that’s integral to the Arrowhead’s economy.duluth-businesses

“They never took the opportunity to listen to both sides of the story,” said Bob Schoneberger, president & CEO of United Piping. “In the resolution there were inaccuracies in there and they were flat out inaccurate. Had they taken the time to get educated on it maybe the vote would have been the same, but they would have known the entire story.”

Schoneberger says thousands of workers in the Duluth area are affected by the oil and gas transportation industry, including the Dakota Access Pipeline project.

The group of 51 businesses believe city council should spend more time focusing on local issues rather than what’s happening in North Dakota.

“The biggest thing I’d like to see is retraction of reference to the addendum and a correction of the inaccuracies,” said Phillip Powers, president of Lake Superior Consulting. “The addendum calls out aspects relating to natural resources which our economy is very dependent.”

Union leaders stood side-by-side with pipeline construction company United Piping and other employers, calling out city councilors and defending the industry that affects thousands of jobs in the Duluth-Superior region.

Dan Olson, business manager of Laborers Local 1091, said in an interview that the group wasn’t necessarily asking the council to overturn its action.

“A resolution is pretty hard to take back,” said Olson, who also is president of the Superior City Council.

But he called the vote “an activist resolution, a feel-good resolution” that “doesn’t have an impact on the city’s mission statement or on what any of the councilors were sworn to do.”

Olson defended the industry that he has worked in for more than 40 years.

“We build these (pipelines) as safe as we possibly can,” Olson said. “We’re in tune with the economic part of it, but with the environmental side as well. We’re not here to damage anybody’s property. We’re not here to hurt the air. We’re not here to hurt the environment in any way, shape or form.”

The united show of economic force may signal a more aggressive approach by labor and industry on economic, energy and environmental issues in Northern Minnesota. A recent post by Duluth Chamber of Commerce President David Ross leaves little doubt.

Did our Duluth City Councilors inquire with our valued neighbors on the Superior City Council prior to passing a resolution supporting the pipeline protesters? Did Duluth’s City Councilors talk to our brothers and sisters in the building and construction trades employed doing pipeline work? Did councilors inquire with the dozens of Twin Ports companies that are sustained by pipeline and mining work? If they didn’t, they would do well to do so in the future. Their actions are disrupting our beloved Twin Ports.

It is regrettable that our friends, family members and neighbors living is Superior are being negatively impacted by the job-jeopardizing and negative actions of the Duluth City Council.

Let’s work together to guard against it happening again. The Chamber’s leadership invites our Twin Ports’ brothers and sisters to join us in encouraging Duluth City Councilors to show more appreciation for the jobs provided by local employers involved in the highly regulated mining and pipeline industries.