When we hear politicians and gas companies extoll the virtues of fracking, jobs created by drilling is usually high on their list of talking points. But the jobs created by fracking are not the kind of quality jobs American workers deserve.
They are not the kind of jobs American laborers have fought and died for throughout our country’s history.
They are extremely dangerous, exposing workers to chemicals whose long-term impacts on human health are yet unknown. In fact, the fatality rate of oil field jobs is seven times greater than the national average.
We interview many workers who have been asked to clean drill sites, transport radioactive and carcinogenic chemicals, steam-clean the inside of condensate tanks which contain harmful volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and other chemicals, and have been told to do so with no safety equipment.
In our new short film, GASWORK: The Fight for C.J.’s Law, we conduct an investigation into worker safety and chemical risk. We follow Charlotte Bevins as she fights for CJ’s law—a bill to protect workers named for her brother CJ Bevins, who died at an unsafe drilling site.
A lot of reporting has been done on the health impacts fracking and drilling have on local communities, but often the story of the workers, the folks who are exposed to fracking chemicals and unsafe working conditions around the clock, goes untold.
GASWORK has rare interviews with oil and gas workers who have come forward to speak out about the unsafe conditions.
One worker from western Pennsylvania told us he was hired by the fracking industry in the early days of the rush to drill the Marcellus Shale to cover up toxic spills in his own community, near the forests and streams where he would hunt and fish, near the front yard where his children play.
The industry won’t tell you that the “good” jobs created by fracking are paying men to poison their own communities in order to feed their families. They won’t tell you that those jobs are not union jobs and if you get hurt, you are on your own. And they won’t tell you that the transition to 100 percent renewables will create hundreds of thousands of safer jobs.
That is one reason we joined workers from the renewable energy industry in an act of civil disobedience on the banks of Seneca Lake in May. Along with 19 others, we blockaded the gates of Crestwood Midstream, a Houston based company whose plan to turn the Finger Lakes into the gas storage and transportation hub for the northeast includes storing gas in rickety salt caverns under Seneca Lake.
One of the men we were arrested with was Joe Sliker, CEO of Renovus Energy, a local renewable energy company. As he stood in front of a large truck being driven by a fossil fuel industry employee, Joe offered the workers at Crestwood a chance to join the energy revolution American workers deserve.
“I’m here to offer them a choice. I’m here to offer all of those people a better job. Today. Right now. Solar is rapidly expanding. These are real, good jobs. We pay better wages. It’s safer. We offer full benefits and paid time off and we respect our team,” says Sliker.
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It was an amazing thing to witness, a table full of job applications, ready for workers who want to switch employers. The solar revolution is ready to build a new workforce right now.
According to a study done by Professor Mark Jacobson at Stanford University, transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy would create 174,775 construction jobs and 94,644 operation jobs in New York state alone. The state where Crestwood wants to turn a rural wine making region into a fossil fuel energy hub. The state where C.J. Bevins was killed at an oilrig site.
We know many of the labor laws we have today we’re won by fossil fuel industry workers. They risked everything, often facing violent retribution from their own government, because they dared to believe they deserved safe working conditions and fair compensation.
We know we stand on the shoulders of those great men and women and that we must continue the fight for safe, good paying jobs in this country. We must have a fair and just transition from fossil fuels to clean energy and support the workers and communities that have for so long powered our lives.
The industry doesn’t want you to know that we care deeply about its workers. That we thought about them this past Labor Day Weekend, knowing people are still working unsafe jobs in America today, all the while feeling the warm summer sun and cool breezes that could be powering our country and a new revolution of safe jobs.
We thought about them and all those who came before. The coalminers, the steel workers, the men and women who worked in the factories, they taught us a very important lesson, one that has echoed throughout history only gaining strength as it has been proven to be true again and again.
They taught us that to challenge the powers at be, we must unite.
A new study shows that GASLAND screenings played a pivotal role in growing the anti-fracking movement and passing fracking bans. We believe the number one reason that is true is because those screenings brought people together.
That is why we are asking you to host a watch party of our new short, GASWORK: The Fight for C.J.’s Law.
Stand with us against jobs that poison workers and communities. Stand with us for safe, clean energy jobs. Stand with us for the energy revolution American labor deserves.