The combatants in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate on Monday traded labor endorsements, with union leaders choosing sides in the intraparty battle.
First, the 100,000-member Allegheny County Labor Council gave its blessing to the five term incumbent, Sen. Arlen Specter (D.,Pa.). More than two-thirds of the local union heads on the council backed Specter over his challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak (D.,Pa.).
The county endorsement was a recommendation to the state AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization for the labor movement, to get behind Specter, who has been campaigning hard to get that backing. The AFL-CIO endorsed Specter back when he was a Republican.
Sestak got his own major statewide endorsement from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Locals 1776 (east) and 23 (west), representing a combined 37,000 workers.
Wendell Young IV, president of Local 1776, said the issue boiled down to trust. Sestak, he said, has been a steady advocate of labor, including on the Employee Free Choice Act that would make it easier to organize, while Specter had waffled on that bill and, as a Republican, helped empower the Bush administration economic policies that benefitted the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class.
“Sen. Specter has been on so many sides of so many issues for so many years,” Young said. “That suggests to me he wouldn’t be there for people. It’s not in his nature.”
Meanwhile, Specter also received the endorsement Monday of the United Auto Workers, the first time in his electoral career that union has backed him. The move is “recognition of his long support of working families and the issues that affect them,” said Joe Ashton, the UAW Region 9 director.
The UAW has 9,400 members in Pennsylvania. Its leaders cited Specter’s long support of fair trade, the Davis-Bacon Act and workplace-safety regulations.