Criminalizing pipeline resistance in Illinois

“Dangerous anti-protest legislation is working its way through state assemblies all across the U.S., chipping away at the right to protest and undermining social justice movements. State legislators have introduced nearly 100 bills curbing your right to protest since the resistance at Standing Rock began. And if oil and gas companies get their way, Illinois will now be added to the list.” (https://truthout.org/articles/alec-wants-to-make-protest-illegal-in-illinois/)

Illinois is just one of several states where model legislation written by the far-right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was introduced. HR1633 was passed by the House but failed in the Senate after several amendments to make it less extreme.

Thanks to everyone who called their legislators and submitted the 5000+ witness slips opposing the bill. But don’t let down your guard. This bill likely will be back in the fall session.

This bill received labor union support in Illinois. For insights into a new dynamic in passing this type of legislation, read on…

Unions and Conservatives

Rebecca Stoner, writing in the Pacific Standard, describes the split between labor and environmental groups—and how that might change. In “Why are Unions joining conservative groups to protect pipelines?” Stoner recaps the battle over Illinois House Bill 1633, which would criminalize peaceful protest at pipeline sites and other designated critical infrastructure sites, increase a misdemeanor to a felony, and impose penalties including fines of at least $1,000 and possible imprisonment.

The bill passed the Illinois House with bipartisan support. It was scheduled for committee hearings and postponed on several dates and was finally tabled. Per Stoner, “According to Jennifer Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, its senate sponsor, Michael Hastings (D-19), plans to discuss elements of the bill with her organization, the AFL-CIO, and the Illinois Manufacturers Assoc over the summer, suggesting it may be reintroduced the next legislative session in a revised form.”

According to experts, the bill’s initial success in a Democratic state was due in part to union support. The AFL-CIO largely consists of construction trades unions, which supported the Keystone XL pipeline and object to “job-killing” efforts by ‘big greens.’ The AFL-CIO needs the financial support of the construction trades to continue. Other unions, including the National Nurses Association and SEIU, support the freedom to protest. (https://psmag.com/environment/why-are-unions-joining-conservative-groups-to-protect-pipelines)

Are you a construction trade union member? Do you know someone who is? The conflict between current jobs and future climate catastrophe is difficult to navigate. But if we don’t talk about it, we may not be able to create that finer future for our children.


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