OPINION: Biden should stand with Alaska, approve Willow project

President Joe Biden ran on a platform to rebuild the backbone of America by fighting for middle-class union jobs. He reiterated that message during his recent State of the Union address. It’s why our national organization, the AFL-CIO, and the millions of workers we represent, endorsed him.

Now it’s time for him to make good on that promise and deliver for Alaska. It’s time for the president to greenlight the Willow project on Alaska’s North Slope. Willow is an essential project that will create union jobs, provide social and economic benefits to communities around Alaska, and support America’s energy security. This project fulfills the promise that President Biden ran on and touted since entering office.

The Willow project is an $8 billion investment that will require approximately 9 million work hours — that’s over 2,500 construction jobs. An estimated 75% of the total North Slope installation man-hours over a 5-year period will use union labor. This union labor is sourced in our Fairbanks union halls representing many different Alaska crafts — laborers, pipefitters, iron workers, operating engineers, electricians and more.

The economic impact of the Willow project will be huge and drive our state forward. The wages from this project will sustain a generation of middle-class families and put money back into the economy. According to Bureau of Land Management estimates, Willow could generate between $8 billion and $17 billion in new revenue for the federal government, the state of Alaska, the North Slope Borough (NSB), and local communities.

Willow has very strong support from the Alaska congressional delegation, including newly elected Democratic House Rep. Mary Peltola, who we were proud to endorse for her staunch commitment to Alaska’s working families and workers’ right to organize.

Standing with the Alaska Congressional Delegation in supporting the project is a large coalition: the Alaska labor movement, Alaska Native stakeholders, national security experts, industry leaders and Alaska residents from Ketchikan to Utqiaġvik.

We strongly support the Willow project in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) and respectfully request that the Biden Administration issue a final Record of Decision for option E no later than March 6 to allow for a winter construction season to occur; there is no reason to further delay a decision.


Alaska also has the opportunity to be part of the renewable energy future of our country. These two goals are not in conflict. We can and must do two things at once. We need a source of domestic oil that can bridge the gap between our energy needs today and our future.

If the president truly believes that workers are America’s backbone and good union jobs are the keystone of an economy that works for all, he will greenlight this project that will supply our nation’s needs while we build our future domestic energy systems, and put thousands of Alaskans to work.

Joelle Hall is the executive director of the Alaska AFL-CIO.

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Joelle Hall

Joelle Hall is the executive director of the Alaska AFL-CIO.