Celebrating the Natural Gas, Labor Partnership on Labor Day

As we head into the holiday weekend, Labor Day is an opportunity to take stock in the deep partnership forged between Pennsylvania’s natural gas sector and skilled building trades.

MSC’s David Spigelmyer and Jim Snell, Business Manager of Steamfitters Local 420 in Philadelphia highlighted this strong connection in a joint PennLive column this week.

“Specifically, we – like the overwhelmingly majority of Pennsylvania voters – understand that locally-produced natural gas will continue to play an important role in helping the Commonwealth and our nation recover and bounce back even stronger.

Job-creating energy growth opportunities are enabled by Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry and skilled union trades working together. Thanks to natural gas development and the forged partnership with Pennsylvania’s skilled laborers, union halls across the commonwealth have gone from high unemployment to full employment, with apprenticeship programs filled, providing good-paying, family supporting careers for tens of thousands of working Pennsylvanians.”

From Pittsburgh to Scranton, Erie to Philadelphia – and communities in between – Pennsylvanians are realizing the shared economic, environmental, and security benefits tied to safe, responsible natural gas development. Rick Bloomingdale and Frank Snyder of the Pa. AFL-CIO chapter hit the nail on the head, writing in the Pennsylvania Capital Star that with natural gas, we don’t have to choose between a clean environment and more jobs.

“The jobs and large projects that come from our energy resources and infrastructure have revitalized communities that have spent decades struggling to recover from deindustrialization and the outsourcing of jobs.”

Coming out of this pandemic, there is a strong potential for an economic recovery in our region built on the foundation of low-cost energy, new and important infrastructure projects, and manufacturing.

But, as MSC’s Spigelmyer and Steamfitters’ Snell warn, policies matter.

“Just as our elected leaders in Harrisburg worked together as Democrats and Republicans to promote pro-manufacturing, pro-energy and pro-labor legislation, we expect the same efforts from our leaders in Washington, D.C. While there is widespread public support for safe, responsible natural gas development across key energy-producing states including Pennsylvania, some candidates continue to push unrealistic policies that will hurt working families and jeopardize the environmental gains we’ve made.

In fact, recent voter surveys show two-thirds of voters in those key states would be more likely to vote for candidates that support American natural gas and oil. In Pennsylvania, 60% of voters agreed with that statement.

Those candidates and elected office holders who support duplicative regulations, sweeping one-size-fits-all laws and costly mandates that pick winners and losers cannot claim they’re pro-union, pro-business or even pro-environment.

Eliminating good-paying natural gas jobs based on so-called clean energy promises is a raw deal for Pennsylvania’s working families that’s based entirely on politics and not on reality.

What’s more, laborers and skilled building trade professionals prefer to work on energy projects in the natural gas and oil sector, according to a recent nationwide survey. The career opportunities for renewable energy forms are nowhere near what they are in the natural gas sector, and domestic energy workers highly value the safety, reliable duration and compensation of natural gas-related construction jobs, the research concludes.”

As we celebrate Labor Day with families, friends and loved ones, and head into the election season, here’s what other union building trades leaders are saying about the importance of natural gas and manufacturing to Pennsylvania.

  • Jeff Nobers, Executive Director, Builders Guild of Western Pa.: “[Pennsylvania] is of the most robust economies in the country. And it’s mostly fueled by, yeah, the gas industry, the burgeoning petrochemical industry, manufacturing.” (New York Times, 1/27/20)
  • Jim Kunz, Business Manager, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66: “I can tell you, in 2010, my local was at about 10% unemployment. Natural gas started to come here in about 2010. Within a year to a year and a half, we went from 10% unemployment to actually over employment. I had to look for people. We went to full employment, and we’ve been at or near full employment, and occasionally over employed, since. … If we end up with a Democratic candidate that supports a fracking ban, I am going to tell my members that they either don’t vote or vote for the other guy.” (New York Times, 1/24/20)
  • Ken Broadbent, Business Manager, Steamfitters Local 449: “Why should we send these petrochemical plants, for instance, over to China where they won’t worry about the pollution? At least here we’re going to do it with the most modern technology and with the least amount of pollution possible. And we’re still going to keep people that have jobs here.” (New York Times, 1/24/20)
  • Shawn Steffe, Business Agent for Boilermakers Local 154: “Biden needs to steer his car out of the far-left ditch back to the middle if he wants us to support him. It’s not happening. I don’t see my members voting for someone who will take away their jobs and pensions over something that has a lot of half-truths to it. …  If I don’t have a job, it doesn’t matter what I fight for on the union end with collective bargaining. If I don’t have a job, I don’t have a seat at the table.” (Washington Examiner, 7/17/20)