Unions and Conservative Conservation Group Hook Up

A number of unions have decided to join forces with a hunters’ club to push the Bush Administration toward conservation (and good luck with that right off the bat).

In a first-of-its-kind alliance that could fundamentally reshape the environmental movement, 20 labor unions with nearly 5 million members are joining forces with a Republican-leaning umbrella group of conservationists — the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership — to put pressure on Congress and the Bush administration.The Union Sportsman’s Alliance, to be rolled out in Washington on Tuesday after nearly three years of quiet negotiations, is to be a dues-based organization ($25 a year). Its primary goal is to increase federal funding for protecting wildlife habitat while guaranteeing access for hunters and anglers.

The unlikely marriage of union and conservation interests comes at a time when the Bush administration, with its push for oil and gas drilling in the Rocky Mountain West, has limited public access to prime hunting and fishing areas on federal land. This has triggered a bipartisan backlash from sportsmen and conservation groups, as well as from Western politicians in both parties.

They’re pissing into the wind. The ulta-rightists and corporate lapdogs of the Bush Administration are about as likely to swap coal, oil, and gas exploration for hunting and fishing as Ann Coulter is to swap her miniskirts for a nun’s habit. It ain’t gonna happen. But there are possible pluses for the unions whether or not the alliance actually accomplishes anything, not the least of which is an opportunity to undercut the pervasive influence of the National Rifle Association.

The NRA in recent years has been strongly allied with the Republican Party and the Bush administration. Some union leaders say they want their new alliance with conservationists to lure the political allegiance of gun-owning union members away from the NRA and its political agenda.”We know that the NRA is communicating to our members what clearly are anti-union positions and urging them to support anti-union candidates,” said Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Schaitberger said the alliance with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership “is about connecting with our members, doing good conservation work and offsetting some of these anti-union messages they are getting from the NRA.”

Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO and an enthusiastic supporter of the new alliance, said an additional 33 labor unions in the AFL-CIO may soon join up.

“This is a way for unions to reconnect with workers in another portion of their lives and meet a need that they have,” Trumka said. “It is also going to give the conservation movement a lot more muscle.”

I tend to think, knowing something about working folk, that hopes of a crossover effect may be a little premature, not to mention optimistic. The blue-collar types I know aren’t going to drop their allegiance to the NRA to start hugging trees. But there is a good possiblity that at least the unions will have a chance to suborn the NRA’s anti-union, pro-corporate noise machine – one of the loudest, if not the loudest, in the country.

It’s worth a try.

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One Response

  1. Yeah, who knows if it will work but I’m all for giving it a shot for the reasons you cite. I’m thrilled to see Labor giving this kind of idea a try and being so open about the motives.

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