Healthcare Workers Stand with the North Dakota Water Protectors Who Are Fighting for Clean Water and Air for All

December 1, 2016

A statement by George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare union in the U.S.

We stand in solidarity with the people of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and all who would be affected by the proposed 1,100-mile-long Dakota Access Pipeline. We thank President Obama for halting construction of the pipeline, and call on him to stop it permanently. And we call on North Dakota Governor Dalrymple to reverse his evacuation order and end the attacks on protestors. This pipeline would carry toxic fracked oil from North Dakota across four states, and under the Missouri River immediately upstream from the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, threatening the air, water and land for millions.

In a classic example of environmental racism, construction of the pipeline went forward without input from the indigenous people along the route. Profits were placed before people when eminent domain was used to seize land in the interest of private corporations.

We support the demands of the thousands of indigenous activists who have set up resistance camps to prevent completion of the pipeline. They are frontline activists in the growing movement across the nation against dangerous dirty fuel pipelines. These protesters are standing up for us all because construction of pipelines exacerbates the destructive effects of climate change.

The world’s scientists agree that the only path to avoiding global climate catastrophe is to quickly phase out the use of dirty fuels – oil, gas and coal – and transition to clean forms of energy such as solar, wind, wave and geothermal.

As healthcare workers, we are alarmed by the dire threats to public health posed by climate change, such as increases in asthma and the spread of viruses like Zika, Chikungunya and West Nile.

As union members, we reject the notion that our country needs to choose between good jobs and a clean environment. In fact, the key to a cleaner and safer environment and the end of climate degradation is the creation of millions of good union jobs that contribute to economic growth as well as repair our crumbling infrastructure, including our roads, schools, hospitals and bridges. We desperately need infrastructure repairs such as the replacement of lead-filled and corroded pipes in cities like Flint, rather than the laying of oil pipes in our rivers and on sacred land.

Therefore, we must immediately halt all new dirty-fuel infrastructure, and instead begin massive investments in clean energy manufacturing, construction, research and development. Our movement must also ensure that there is a just transition to a 100% clean energy economy that provides job training, placement and security for workers. The Standing Rock Sioux Nation and their allies are contributing to this positive process. They are leading the way to a cleaner, safer environment and a more democratic energy policy that places the interests of people above the profits of the dirty fuel industry. We stand with them.