Fracking has benefited local unions and trade workers in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. After years of watching nonunion workers take on fracking jobs in the oil and gas fields of the Utica Shale and Marcellus, unions have found jobs supporting the growing industry.
During the early days of shale drilling, unions complained about the lack of local work offered to their members. In 2010, a union leader told the Pennsylvania House Labor Relations Committee that unions in the area had little to no success of working in the industry.
Times have since changed. Union jobs in Pennsylvania and West Virginia have significantly increased from 400,000 hours worked in 2008 to 5.7 million in 2012.
Dennis Martire, the mid-Atlantic regional manager for the Laborers’ International Union (LIUNA) said fracking was not only an important lifeline for his members, but a source of job creation.
Large quantities of natural gas have been extracted from the Utica Shale and Marcellus oil and gas fields during the past five years. Their deposits lay deep under the surface. Through fracking, vast amounts of water, sand, and chemicals are sent underground to separate the oil and gas deposits trapped within shale deposits. Over the past three years, 6,000 wells have been drilled in the region.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics cited employment in the American oil and gas industries rose from 120,000 in 2004 to 208,000 in 2014. Union membership represented less than 10 percent of the full-time workers.
Alex Paris, the owner of the Alexis P, Paris Construction Company in Pittsburgh, PA, said there has been a shift to local contractors connected with unions. More union jobs have been created for the first time since the decline of the steel industry in the 1980s. Fracking jobs pay better than other forms of local blue-collar work and are poised to keep growing.
Amy Dague of Wheeling WVA said she has worked 15 jobs over the course of her life. None offered the stability than the maintenance pipeline company that has employed her for a little over a year. It is long-term employment in a steady job that has enticed her to stay.
Increased fracking has benefited local unions and trade workers making them a strong ally for the gas and oil companies wanting to increase the practice. Republicans tend to be pro-drilling. Union members are using their growing political clout to influence Democrats to support fracking.
David Masur, the director of Penn Environment, takes a critical stance on fracking. The greater dynamic concerning jobs overshadow the greater need of protecting the environment. The desire for increased fracking has created a rift between union members wanting jobs and environmentalists against further oil and gas exploration. The effort to increase fracking demonstrates shortsightedness among the public. He acknowledged union members need jobs and they vote for candidates in unison.
Masur wants to restrict well permits and ban fracking from local communities and state forests. There should be further efforts to increase solar and wind power farms.
Environmentalists face increasing opposition when it comes to the fracking of oil and gas. Fracking has benefited local unions and trade workers with better paying jobs and their members demonstrating few concerns about the environment.
By Brian T. Yates