A good relationship with labor is the ticket to political longevity for Republicans in southeast PA, and Rep. Pat Meehan may have punched it Thursday. He picked up the backing of the Philadelphia Council of Building and Construction Trades, which represents 70,000 workers in the region.
“Pat has been a leader on numerous issues important to our members, including saving the refineries and the dredging of the Delaware River. These aren’t partisan or ideological issues – they’re common sense,” said union President Patrick Gillespie.
“More importantly, Pat really understands the challenges facing the middle class today. He gets it.”
This year Meehan, a freshman, faces attorney George Badey. But a combination of stellar fundraising by Meehan, a halting recruiting process by Democrats, and bold-faced partisan redistricting by Republicans in Harrisburg have yielded a race that looks less competitive than did 2010.
That said, Democratic turnout tends to jump in presidential years in southeast Pa, and Obama won the new configuration of the 7th district by about 4 points in 2008.
Meehan is a former Delaware County District Attorney and U.S. Attorney and has earned credibility as a problem solver – particularly in recent months. He’s also seen his star rise in Washington, DC, where he is one of two freshman in GOP leadership in the House.
Outside a Trainer oil refinery formerly operated by ConocoPhillips, Danny Kubik, Chairman of the union’s Delaware County committee, emphasized the part Meehan played in preserving it and thousands of refinery-related jobs in southeast Pa.
“When this refinery and its hundreds of jobs were threatened, Pat Meehan was the first to answer our call for help,” said Kubik. “Pat brought all the relevant labor, business and government leaders together in the same room and got everyone to work together. Pat’s leadership was key to saving this refinery.”
“The Philadelphia Council of Building and Construction Trades is one of the nation’s oldest, most respected labor organizations,” said Meehan. “I am truly honored to receive their endorsement. They play a critical role in protecting the rights of thousands of 7th District workers.”
Badey campaign spokesman Patrick McGarrity said that despite Thursday’s endorsement, his candidate has the inside track with organized labor.
“The fact is that Pat Meehan has pledged to protect tax breaks for companies that outsource American jobs to foreign countries like China and India,” McGarrity said. He noted that several constituent unions of the Building Trades had endorsed Badey, including the Plumbers, Teamsters, Sheet Metal Workers, Ironworkers, Elevator Constructors and Bricklayers.
“George Badey has been recommended by all four AFL-CIO labor councils in the district and on Election Day individual working men and women know they have a choice between George Badey, who has spent his entire career fighting for working people, and Pat Meehan, who supports sending our jobs overseas.”
As labor goes, it’s not uncommon for the Philly Building and Trades to back Republicans, and not just moderates like former Senator Arlen Specter (who they endorsed as a Republican and a Democrat). The union backed Rick Santorum in 2006 over Bob Casey, thanks in part to Santorum’s ability to steer federal dollars into the region.
In 2010, however, the group went all blue for top tier races. The union endorsed Joe Sestak for U.S. Senate, Dan Onorato for Governor, and Bryan Lentz against Meehan for Congress, Gillespie said.
Their endorsement this year does two things for Meehan. First, it gives him political cover. It’s easier for him to claim the mantle of bipartisanship with a big labor union in his corner. Second, it keeps labor from uniting around Badey, which is good news for the Meehan even if all it accomplishes is that labor factors less into the race as a whole.
The Philly Building Trades has 70,000 members in southeast PA, and comprises the following unions:
International Union of Operating Engineers
Laborers International Union of North America
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers
International Union of Elevator Constructors
Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association
United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada
Here’s a list of the unions that have endorsed Badey on top of those listed above:
Berks County Central Labor Council Recommendation
Chester County Central Labor Council Recommendation
Delaware County Central Labor Council Recommendation
Montgomery County Central Labor Council Recommendation
Service Employees International Union Pennsylvania State Council (SEIU)
Pennsylvania State Council IAMAW
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), District 88
International Association of Iron Workers, Local 401
International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 513
United Auto Workers Region 9
United Steel Workers Local 12698
Elevator Constructors Local 5
Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen Local 1
United Mine Workers of America, Pennsylvania State Council
Sheet Metal Workers Local 19
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
Plumbers Local 690
National Treasury Employees Union