- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s opposition to the ill-fated Keystone XL oil pipeline didn’t prevent her from capturing a key endorsement Tuesday from a labor union that has been among the most vocal supporters of the project.

The Laborers' International Union of North America — which accused President Obama of selling out the middle class and acting in a “cowardly” political manner after he rejected Keystone this month — announced Tuesday that it would back Mrs. Clinton in the White House contest.

The endorsement comes as something of a surprise after the Laborers' union spent years heavily promoting the pipeline and saying opponents of the project were distorting the facts and standing in the way of an economic boom.

Mrs. Clinton remained mum about the pipeline for several years but came out against it this fall. That position, however, appears to have had little impact on the Laborers’ union decision.

LIUNA members and leadership believe that Secretary Clinton is the right leader to move our country forward and the most qualified candidate to address the many challenges facing the United States,” the union said in a statement. “LIUNA members are deeply concerned about the direction of our country and are looking for a real leader who will create good jobs, rebuild our country, and grow our economy. Secretary Clinton’s record proves that she is a tough and tested fighter for our nation and for working men and women.”

The Laborers' union did not respond to a request for comment seeking clarification on how it reconciles its endorsement with Mrs. Clinton’s opposition to Keystone. Mrs. Clinton said in a statement that she was honored by the endorsement.

More broadly, the Laborers’ union move could underscore what some political analysts have noted over the past few weeks — that Keystone simply may not be a top political issue in the presidential race, nor will unions or other groups use it as a litmus test when deciding whom to back.

Analysts said the Laborers’ and other unions likely weighed the Keystone issue and ultimately decided that Mrs. Clinton still was the best choice.

“First, such endorsements are generally made more because of a candidate’s overall orientation and less for a stand on a particular issue. Second, especially compared with the pack of Republican candidates, Secretary Clinton is much more inclined to pro-union policies than others in the mix,” said Mark Boyer, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut. “I suspect that while LIUNA might not be happy with the Keystone stand, Hillary’s overall policy orientation makes her much more attractive to union interests.”

Critics say Laborers’ union bosses have disregarded members who would have benefited from the construction of Keystone. The project would have created more than 40,000 jobs, according to Obama administration estimates.

“Today, the Laborers' International Union of North America became the latest labor union to endorse Hillary Clinton for president. In doing so, LIUNA’s union bosses turned their backs on the key issue their membership believes in: the Keystone XL pipeline,” the conservative PAC America Rising said in a statement. “But to Hillary Clinton, opposing Keystone was an opportunity to demonstrate how far left she is willing to go to win her Party’s nomination — even if that means opposing a commonsense, union-backed project that would have created new construction jobs.”

In her own statement, Mrs. Clinton thanked the Laborers' union for the endorsement but ironically mentioned the union’s work in the pipeline sector.

“It’s time to put more Americans to work modernizing our infrastructure — building roads and bridges, repairing leaky pipelines, upgrading our water systems, and hardening our energy system against the threats of cyberattack and climate change,” she said. “I have always stood with organized labor and working Americans, and I will stand with them and fight for them as president. Because when workers are strong, families are strong — and when families are strong, America is strong.”

Mrs. Clinton remains far in front of Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in Democratic presidential primary polls.

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