Proposal to Export U.S. Oil Causes Unions to Break from AFL-CIO

There has recently been a push to lift the 40-year old ban on oil exports. Several economists believe that pushing domestic crude oil into the world market will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, contribute tens of billions of Gross Domestic Product dollars, put downward pressure on domestic fuel prices, and provide our allies with an alternative to sourcing energy from Russia and the Middle East. The AFL-CIO disagrees.

According to the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest union federation, “lifting the ban would not only prove detrimental to the jobs of the men and women employed at U.S. refineries, but also to the communities that rely on the tax base generated from these wages.”  Notably, the United Steelworkers, the main union for oil refineries, is a major player within the AFL-CIO.

This staunch opposition to exporting oil has caused the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and the International Union of Operating Engineers to break from AFL-CIO, sign a letter with 20 business and industry groups, and support a House bill ending the ban on oil exports. While the AFL-CIO’s position is largely taken to protect steelworkers, LIUNA and the Operating Engineers are involved in the shale oil industry and stand to benefit from new, international oil demand.

Matt Austin is a lawyer based in the Columbus, Ohio office of Roetzel & Andress, LPA who limits his practice to representing employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. You can call Matt at (614) 723-2010 or email him at