PA-Sen: Sestak Cheered By Steelworkers, Specter Disinvited

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jun 24, 2009 at 10:00

At first glance, Joe Sestak reiterating that he is a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act while speaking at a United Steelworkers conference doesn't seem like much of a news story. As the title of this post implies, however, there is something that made it very interesting:

U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak keeps increasing the likelihood that he'll challenge Sen. Arlen Specter for the Democratic Senate nomination next year.

On Sunday, he told the United States Steelworkers Legislative Conference in Atlantic City that he backs the Employee Free Choice Act, the proposed law that would make it easier for unions to organize.

The catch is that Senator Arlen Specter did not speak at this event. In fact, he was disinvited.

Here is the full story, courtesy of an email exchange with Jim Savage, who is President of a Steelworkers local here in Philadelphia:

  • "The Senator [Arlen Specter] was invited & confirmed as the keynote speaker."

  • "There was quite an uproar when we found out. He was uninvited because of the rank-and-file reaction."

  • "Also, it's worth noting that the Senator was none too happy about it."

  • At that point, Sestak was then invited. Before he spoke, he was "introduced to the delegates as "our next Senator" to a rousing ovation."

  • The general sentiment toward Specter was "fuck'm."
I have to say, talking to local union leaders is a lot more fun than talking with communications staff.

Bad blood between Specter and Pennsylvania Steelworkers has been building this year. Back in February, local Steelworkers chapters delivered petitions and letters from their membership urging Specter's support for EFCA. In response, Specter staff promised to throw the letters away:

Specter's staff grew increasingly aggressive at every event, Pennsylvania union members report. At Specter's Wilkes-Barre office, where union members and allies delivered thousands of letters and petitions, United Steelworkers (USW) member Tim Waters reports that they were told by a staffer, "as soon as you leave, your letters will go straight in the trash."

Stay classy, Specter staffers.

Needless to say, it is a good bet labor unions in Pennsylvania are not going to be as pro-Specter as the upper echelons of the Democratic Party leadership would like.

Chris Bowers :: PA-Sen: Sestak Cheered By Steelworkers, Specter Disinvited

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dem leaders (4.00 / 2)
Where are they? I must find them, I am their leader!.... This is delightful.

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

Why is the DLC worthy of progressive support? (4.00 / 1)
I've never understood this. Sestak is a DLCer.

Unless we're talking "progressive" the way the word is abused by the Orwellian-named "Progressive (sic) Policy Institute," the DLC's think-tank -- pro-war, anti-single-payer, pro-NAFTA and deregulation and privatization etc etc etc...

Where is your proof that Sestak is DLC? ... (4.00 / 2)
Because I haven't seen it ... no one here is fooling themselves thinking that Sestak is Bernie Sanders ... but given that we are having Snarlin' Arlen stuffed down our throats .. we don't have a lot of choice .. especially considering the money it is going to take to defeat Specter .. you know the old saying .. "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good"?

[ Parent ]
Sestak is listed as a member of the New Democrat Coalition (4.00 / 1)
Which is associated with the DLC.  Some see the two as synonymous, some don't.

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both

[ Parent ]
I despise that admonition. (0.00 / 0)
"Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

Never has there been a bigger, more effective excuse for not doing a damned thing good than this bit of dishonesty.  No one seriously expects or asks for perfection.  We demand the good, but are told we've no alternative but to accept the mediocre or downright bad.  We've done better before, and we can do it again - but only if we make it happen.

[ Parent ]
I see it more as supporting democracy (4.00 / 7)
and fighting corporate takeover of the Democratic Party.  A Republican should not be permitted to simply put a (D) next to his name to get approval from the Democratic Party leadership, nor should he be permitted to go through a Democratic Primary unchallenged.

Sestak's voting record seems pretty good so far:

[ Parent ]
Sestak (4.00 / 7)
Nobody is saying that Congressman Sestak is the second coming of Bernie Sanders here... what we ARE saying is that in a choice between Specter and Sestak, we choose Sestak... hands down.

[ Parent ]
Jim Savage! (4.00 / 2)
I remember him from the Philly for Dean days!

Good to see he's still rockin' the boat.

The One and The Same ;-) (4.00 / 2)

[ Parent ]
Enough already about fairness and justice for workers... (4.00 / 1)
Have you seen the fish I caught in Alaska?

why would (4.00 / 1)
the steelworkers or any other union worker want EFCA?  they are already in a union.  the steelworkers delivering petitions and letters from their members is not going to influence anyone to change their minds.  EFCA is for non-union people.  letters and petitions should come from them.  

Maybe they are trying to help grow the union!!! (4.00 / 5)

[ Parent ]
union , and membership, political involvement (4.00 / 5)
Many (all I know of) unions have a clause in their charter advocating for advancing fairness and opportunity in society. Also a primary purpose of unions is to take exploitation of workers out of business calculations for maximum profit. To level the field, so to speak, and force competition between firms to be competence based, rather than benifit thoes who can force wages down the fastest. Unions are among the strongest supporters of minimum wage laws, for example, but almost all union members are making more than minimum wage. The history of organized labor in politics is long and proud. I don't believe anyone can identify any people friendly legislation passed into law in the last 100 years in the U.S. that did not have strong support from unions. As the creators of the market, unions have been indirectly responsible for making more millionairs than any other factor. There are only two reasons to oppose unions, ignorance and greed.  

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

[ Parent ]
Because they are not conservatives or republicans (4.00 / 4)
and can see beyond their own self interest.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
These are all (4.00 / 1)
great responses however, the fact remains that if the only ones commming out for EFCA are unions then, this really seems self serving.  Given the fact that unions last year won 67% of their elections, it seems that the argument for EFCA is again, self serving.  

You would think that with a democratic senate, house , and president, plus hundreds of millions of hard working union dues paying dollars, EFCA would have sailed through without any problems.  

The real fact is that people are just not buying into unions any more.  Especially after the continuous negative press surrounding company shut downs, walk-outs, violence, greed, etc.  everyone is feeling the crunch and having to cut back but the unions think they are immune from that.  they continue to force the hand that feeds them at the expense of their members.  

Union membership is down to just over 7% in the private sector and this number will continue to decrease.  More and more americans realize the currupt self serving nature of unions and want no part of it.  Companies have become wiser in the manner in which they deal with their employees.  The unions can no longer compete on the issues of wages, benefits, and working conditions especially with all the public concessions they have had to give up in the last few years.  At will terminations are a thing of the past.  Even in At-will states, comapanies are terminating employment for Just Cause only.  The only people the unions can protect are the lame, and lazy.

Taft-Hartly was put in place for a very good reason.  The union thugs were going crazy with power.  The need that power once again to make ground.  No one is willing to give those unions that type of power again.  Only a fool would join a union today.  

[ Parent ]
No more "self-serving" (4.00 / 3)
than trying to get more people to join the Democratic Party, or give money to support any interest group.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that EFCA is intended to compel anyone to join a union. If the workers don't want to unionize, they can still vote against it, right?

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
You're a fuckwit (4.00 / 7)
I figure we should probably get that out into the open. I have no respect for you, nor for the opinions you've just given, as they betray a total lack of thought or comprehension.

But let's pretend you're arguing in good faith and have anything resembling critical reasoning skills. Let's treat your argument with the respect it emphatically does not deserve.

1) Why the fuck does it matter that unions supporting EFCA is self-serving? Did the rest of America suddenly become powered by altruism alone? Have corporations stopped serving their own self-interest?

No. So your critique of unions is absurd. They are there to serve their members interests - ie to be self-serving.

2) How many elections they win is irrelevant. Unions want EFCA because a lot of the time they can't get elections, because of management interference. Which is not to say that elections are fair - 1 in 4 sees the sacking of pro-union workers, for example.

3) If you think that the Senate are representative of the American people at large, you are pretty fucking stupid. Fun fact: the average American earns a little over $40000 a year. More than 80% of the Senate are millionaires. And most millionaires are not pro-union.

4) "People are just not buying into unions any more". Prove it. Considering polling has consistently shown that more people want to have a union than actually do, I'm going to have to assume you are, once again, full of shit.

5) "More and more americans realize the currupt self serving nature of unions and want no part of it." The 1940s called. They want their slander back.

Yes, there are still mob unions, but that has a lot more to do with the nature of organised crime than it does with the union movement, and it isn't the mob unions that are still growing. The reason that only 7% of private sector employees are unionised is rampant collaboration between a union-busting private sector and the twenty-two right-to-work states.

6) "Companies have become wiser in the manner in which they deal with their employees." Is it nice on your planet? Have you not noticed the outsourcing, the stagnation of wages in real terms, the Lily Ledbetter case, or indeed pretty much anything about Walmart? Or you just very bad at trolling?

7) "The only people the unions can protect are the lame, and lazy." Where I come from, we call those people the vulnerable. We call them the poor, we call them minorities, we call them single mothers, we call them immigrants, we call them the poorly educated, we call them the uninsured, we call them the unoppressed. You know what we call people who call them the "lame, [sic] and lazy." We call them glibertarian fuckwits. Take your condescension, and shove it where the sun don't shine.

Especially since there is more than enough evidence that at-will terminations do still exist, and that 'just cause' is often paper thin. Just try the multiple cases of union activists being fired prior to elections.

To close, I'd like to ask anybody who feels I have been unfair to RR, that redoubtable defender of robber barons and denigrator of the working class, to consider this comment as a homage to the Pennsylvania Steelworkers. They heard Arlen Specter fucking with them, and they said "fuck'm". I saw RR spreading a broad wave of lies, ignorance and misinformation, and I responded similarly.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Another reason we need strong unions (4.00 / 4)
It's the money. Without a significant number of unions in our economy only investors and CEOs and senior managers make real money. It's no accident that, since the 1980s when Reagan broke the PATCO union, union membership has dropped from the low 30%s to 8% or so. At the same time, guess what? The top 1% of Americans saw their income/assets increase 240+% while working stiffs barely broke even over the same 25-30 year span.

Without unions to demand fair living wages, the majority of Americans simply do not make enough money to live and their wages remain stagnant. No middle class means no strong economy for anyone, even the wealthy. At some point, the economy implodes, foreclosures go up, unemployment goes up, exactly as it has in the past few years. The other 99% of Americans find they can no longer live a simple, decent life because of the excessive greed of the wealthiest 1%.

Are unions perfect? Absolutely not. But there are lots of imperfect things in this world that are essential to sustaining life, for example, a first world economy with a strong middle class. Unions are one of them. We don't need 100% unionization. We just need 25-30% unionization in appropriate industries. Stopping extremely wealthy corporations from blatant union-busting would be a good start. EFCA is nothing more than an attempt to level the playing field.

[ Parent ]
Strength in numbers (4.00 / 2)
If unions are going to make a difference, they need a critical mass of numbers.

And they also need other workers to enjoy the benefits of unionisation, or they've got precious little hope of achieving solidarity.

If you aren't in a union, you probably haven't heard much of EFCA. You know why? Because you aren't organised. Only the unions really do political education for their members.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
Solidarity (4.00 / 2)
That's what unions are all about.  That's also why they won't the cross picket lines of any union.

The EFCA benefits every union.

[ Parent ]
A Few Points (4.00 / 10)
Since I'm the Jim Savage mentioned in Bowers' post, I think I can fill in some of the blanks here...

1. Senator Specter was actually invited back in February.
2. A few of us happened to find out he was going to be there about two weeks prior to the conference.
3. A mini-revolt among the rank-and-file delegates who were attending the conference ensued.
4. Specter was uninvited.
5. Sestak was invited to speak in his place.
6. Sestak was greeted warmly and the response to his remarks was thunderous.
7. Regardless of  what the "leaders" do wrt to the primary, the rank-and-file will be working for  Sestak.
8. Specter sent a whiny-ass letter to be read to the delegates, which was greeted with jeers.
9. Fuck'm

Oh, and...

10. There is no doubt Sestak is running.

Fuck'm should become the new battle cry (4.00 / 3) "Nuts!", the quote attributed to General McAuliffe at the Battle of Bastogne in WWII when the Germans asked him to surrender. Too funny. Made my day, thank you Chris!

It's a wonderful slogan (4.00 / 3)
Political problems tend to be complex, turning upon several inter-related issues and with no clear solution.

But each step can generally be reduced to a simple summary: you have an aim, and some bastard is stopping you from achieving this aim. So fuck'm.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

[ Parent ]
I live something I heard Jim say a ways back (0.00 / 0)
something along the lines of "we're the union--you know, the people who brought you the weekend."

[ Parent ]
Sink Specter (0.00 / 0)
As a supporters of Sestak from early in his first run, my friend and I are trying to help him raise campaign funds, especially for this next June 30 deadline.

Our ActBlue campaign is called "Sink Specter".  (The funds all go to the same ActBlue account for Sestak.)

Here's the link and all donations to Joe through our campaign are greatly appreciated:


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