Oil industry attempts to co-opt ’99 Percent’ movement

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, November 14, 2011 14:12 EDT
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A washed up oil tanker. Photo illustration: Flickr user AZRainman.
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A new radio ad campaign and website sponsored by the oil industry’s largest firms seeks to conflate union solidarity with the “Occupy” and “99 Percent” movements with the Keystone XL pipeline, which the White House delayed last week for approximately a year for greater study.

Called “Jobs for the 99,” the campaign has released two radio ads decrying “the Hollywood crowd” who’ve ostensibly taken over Washington, D.C., holding it hostage from creating jobs for oil industry workers. Both ads end with a credit that claims they were paid for by unions.

The truth, however, is that the campaign is sponsored by the Oil & Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee, an umbrella group that, while unionized, is led by the chiefs of Exxon Mobil, Marathon Oil and The American Petroleum Institute.

The “Jobs for the 99″ website urges viewers to contact the White House and pressure the president to support the Keystone XL pipeline. It also features a tool that will connect participants directly to the White House via telephone, simply by typing in their number.

Both radio ads produced by “Jobs for the 99″ claim that if the pipeline doesn’t go up on schedule moving heavy tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas gulf coast, thousands of possible jobs would be lost forever.

But that line of attack is yet another parallel to industry groups and Washington conservatives, who’ve been attacking the Obama administration’s decision to delay the pipeline for further study, claiming the president has placed politics over American jobs.

TransCanada, the company proposing the Keystone XL pipeline, estimates that it would need about 3,500 workers in total to build the structure, although most of those would be temporary, entailing lower wages and an emphasis on manual labor.

Campaigners opposed to the pipeline insist that estimate is higher than the actual number of jobs the project would create.

In spite of the oil industry’s labeling on their newest astroturf campaign, the general assembly at “Occupy Wall Street” did not bite. They voted last week to dissociate from “Jobs for the 99,” calling it a “front group” for oil industry interests.

“We express solidarity with the unions that oppose Keystone XL and support a transition to a sustainable, green economy, namely the Transport Workers Union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and Domestic Workers United,” the wrote. “We applaud those hundreds of rank-and-file members of all unions who have publicly expressed their opposition to Keystone XL pipeline.

“We must dissociate from this attempt at co-option by the 1% to preserve our movement as the 99%, and as definitive precedent to dissuade future attempts of co-optation.”

Photo illustration: Flickr user AZRainman.

(H/T: Policy Shop)

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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