“These jobs are really good-paying jobs,” Hendrix said. “They provide not only a good living wage, they provide health care and they also provide pension.”
TransCanada has stressed those benefits, saying the pipeline could support thousands of people in economically rough times. Hendrix said the jobs were appreciated but not as urgent as portrayed.
“We've been very fortunate in the pipeline business,” he said. “When the rest of the economy was in terrible shape, we've been doing very well. It's not a deal breaker or a killer for us if we don't get it.”
Work started in Oklahoma about two months ago. Dodson said protests against it have come with it. At least two so-called “direct actions” involved people locking themselves to construction equipment to prevent its use, leading to 10 arrests in central Oklahoma.
Such civil disobedience tactics have become a mainstay of the pipeline's opposition. A rally near the White House on Feb. 17 drew 35,000 protesters, organizers said, a few days after celebrities and prominent environmental activists tied themselves to the White House fence.
“What we're working on ... is trying to amplify the voices of people who aren't represented by the national discourse,” said Jay Morris, spokesman for the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance in Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, Hendrix said pipeline workers with his union will keep an eye on Washington. “If the permit gets approved, we'll start construction on the northern end of it immediately,” he said.