Let’s get 2017 started with some inspiration and a call to action. In December, a group of CWA members set out from the East Coast on a solidarity trip to Standing Rock, North Dakota. The group included young Next Gen members, seasoned CWA activists, and a retiree—all of whom wanted to support the cause of the native Sioux fighting a corporate takeover of their sacred lands. Those who went on the mission included: Mary Clinton, a District 1 organizer in New York, who is originally from North Dakota; Chris Calabrese, CWA 1103; Peter Cipparulo, CWA 1038 and Next Gen; Kristen Affrime, CWA 1038 and Next Gen; Dan Antonellis, CWA 1038 retiree; and Rachel Car Ludwig, CWA 1038.
We had a chance to talk with Kristen after she returned from what she describes as “a beautiful fight” in the Great Plains. More than anything else, Kristen wants to encourage everyone to spread the word about the dangers posed by the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) for native communities. In a nutshell, the 1,134-mile pipeline is intended to carry 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day from oil fields in the Dakotas to Illinois. A coalition of tribal nations and environmental groups, led by the Standing Rock Sioux, believe the pipeline will severely damage both sacred cultural sites and the surrounding environment.
At the end of this post, Kristen has provided a long list of ways anyone can take action to help. Please try at least one of these avenues and share with your friends and family. We want to make 2017 a year of coming together to fight oppression and disenfranchisement in every corner of the country.
Kristen shares her thoughts on the experience below.
What made you decide to go to Standing Rock?
Our Local decided we wanted to support the water protectors. We only have one planet—we have to protect it. In the end, we got people of all ages and backgrounds who wanted to join the solidarity trip, which was amazing.
What does this kind of activism mean to you, and what would you say to other Next Gen members who want to do something similar but can’t make the trip across the country?
This particular issue means a lot to me, especially after being there and meeting so many people. An oil spill from a pipeline can be disastrous for the ecosystem and the people who live there. If we move to alternative energy, we’re all so much safer, and so is the planet.
I would like to go back in the spring, but we can do a lot from where we are too. We can build awareness and fight the fight at home. There will be protests and actions at the big banks funding the pipeline and other protests against the same kind of corporate greed that’s at work in North Dakota.
The simplest thing that we can do is get our labor community engaged. Find a way to support a local movement for indigenous people, the environment, immigrants—any cause that is close to you. And hold the corporations and government accountable. Also, watch the kinds of products you use and the amount of energy you use—or waste—everyday. We can all be more careful not to squander resources. Folks in the camp used solar cells to power their medical tents and yurts—and are also using wind turbines—and it worked!
What should we know about the Sioux nation, which is leading the fight against the pipeline?
The people we met in North Dakota who are members of the Sioux and other indigenous peoples have enormous respect for their elders and for the democratic decision-making process—a lot like our labor movement. The community we found there in North Dakota just worked together beautifully. The rules were really based on respecting one another and the place, and understanding that we were all there for a common purpose—protecting the land.
What was the atmosphere like, and what did you do there?
We made compost restrooms, and I did dishes with water that froze in the buckets! We heated the water on a propane stove. Not one person complained. After a rough year, it really restored my faith in humanity.
As a group we brought in food, warm clothes for the winter, and some insulation supplies for stoves and tents and yurts. We were at a hardware store getting a few more supplies and noticed some elderly women buying the same things, so we paid for their supplies too. One of the women said, “I was asking for a miracle today, and we got it.”
So many people were praying together and crying together during the experience. One woman brought a package of sacred corn from New Mexico as a gift of solidarity. There was a real “solidarity sisterhood” moment when some of the women gathered to talk and listen to each other. The sense of empowerment and empathy really impressed me.
How can CWA Next Gen members stay informed and take action?
In general, I would suggest people look at live feeds from the area rather than big news media. The main web site for the Oceti Sakowin Camp is also a great resource.
Here are some of the many ways people can contribute to the cause:
- Call or Email your Congressional Representative or Senator to declare your support for the water protectors of Standing Rock. You can use this page to find out who they are and how to contact them. If you’re worried about what to write when you contact officials, or need more background information before making phone calls, some sample language is available here.
- Before Obama leaves office, call or email Denis McDonough, Chief of Staff to the President and Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of Army Corp of Engineers. Tell them to rescind the permits granted to Dakota Access.
- Denis McDonough, Chief of Staff to the President, (202) 456-3182
- Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of Army Corp of Engineers, (703) 697-8986
- Call the Army Corps of Engineers and demand that they reverse the permit: (202) 761-5903
- Make sure to sign the petition to the White House to Stop DAPL.
- Call the executives of the companies that are building the pipeline:
- Lee Hanse , Executive Vice President ,Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 800 E Sonterra Blvd #400 , San Antonio, Texas 78258, Telephone: (210) 403-6455
- Glenn Emery , Vice President, Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 800 E Sonterra Blvd #400, San Antonio, Texas 78258, Telephone: (210) 403-6762
- Michael (Cliff) Waters , Lead Analyst, Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. 1300 Main St. , Houston, Texas 77002, Telephone: (713) 989-2404
- You can donate items from the Oceti Sakowin Camp Supply List
- Join the Labor for Standing Rock Facebook Group. This is a great place to connect with other Labor Activists and find out solidarity events that support Standing Rock and Labor. And if you’re on social media, these hashtags will help keep you up to date on all the news coming out of the camp:
#HonorTheTreaties #NoBakken #OcetiSakowinCamp
#MniWiconi #SacredWater #NoDAPL #RezpectOurWater