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Philly AFL-CIO To Host Dem Prez Hopefuls At First Workers Presidential Summit

Several Democratic presidential hopefuls will head to Philadelphia next week to discuss labor issues at the Philadelphia Council of the AFL-CIO’s first-ever “Workers’ Presidential Summit.” 

In a release from the AFL-CIO about the event, they describe the group planning the event to have an “urgent conversation” with the 2020 Democratic presidential nominees about the need for more union jobs in America and to see where they stand on “key labor issues”. 

“It’s no secret that winning Pennsylvania will be key to winning the Presidency — and that working-class voters hold that key. This summit will showcase frank talk between Democratic candidates and union members from every industry about which of them will do the best job standing up for working people in the White House,” said Pat Eiding, president of the Philadelphia Council, AFL-CIO. “On Tuesday, September 17, Pennsylvania’s working families will begin to decide who, as the Democratic nominee for President, is best suited to bring about the changes necessary to deliver more union jobs and greater equality to our state and to our nation.”

The six candidates that have confirmed their participation in the summit thus far are Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), progressive billionaire activist Tom Steyer, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, and author Marianne Williamson. 20 Democratic candidates have been invited and more still may be added to the current list. Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), who initially committed to participating in the forum, has changed plans and will be campaigning in Iowa on Tuesday. A spokesperson for the Sestak campaign tells PoliticsPA that he “personally called the AFL-CIO representative in Pennsylvania to regret the change of plans.”

The event, which is expected to include “thousands of rank and file union members and voters” according to a release from the Philly AFL-CIO, said that they anticipate the candidates to address how they will “combat wage inequality, ensure access to quality public services, strengthen the right to organize unions, and increase the number of good, union jobs in the US” and more. 

The candidates will answer questions submitted online by the union members, while the conversation is facilitated by a moderator, according to a spokesperson. 

Winning the union vote in Pennsylvania has become a key focus heading into the 2020 election after Donald Trump won the state in 2016, making it the first time a GOP candidate for the White House carried the state since George H.W. Bush in 1988. 

One of the big storylines heading into the forum is someone who has yet to commit to attending; former Vice President Joe Biden. 

In an interview with NPR, Eiding called out the Scranton native for not committing to attending the summit. 

“He always calls himself a Pennsylvanian at heart. His headquarters are here in Philadelphia. But his folks haven’t found the importance of coming together and talking to our workers. And so, that’s very disappointing,” Eiding told NPR. “There’s got to be some respect for the working people if they want their vote.”

Biden, whose first public event as a candidate was in a teamster hall in Pittsburgh and held his campaign kickoff rally in Philadelphia, has stressed winning over the union vote in his campaign thus far. 

A spokesperson for the Biden campaign told NPR that the candidate is not “neglecting labor” and called Eiding a “friend.” 

“Vice President Biden is as proud to call Patrick Eiding a friend as his campaign is to call Philadelphia home,” he said in a statement to NPR. “Shortly after he received the endorsement of the International Association of Firefighters, the very first rally of Joe Biden’s campaign was held at a Teamsters hall in Pittsburgh, where he shouted-out the unions represented in the audience. Joe Biden has fought for working people his entire life, and as he said at his official campaign launch in Philadelphia, as president he would strive every day to build ‘an economy that rewards work, not just wealth.’”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on August 30 that former Congressman and current Chair of the Philadelphia Democratic Party Bob Brady has talked to Biden “trying to secure his appearance at the forum.” Brady told the Inquirer that Biden is trying to work the event into his schedule and offered to appear at the AFL-CIO on another day, in which Eiding turned down on the appearance that it might look like an endorsement. Brady said that Biden is “going to try to figure out a way to get there.”

A release from the Biden campaign on August 2 detailing his September travel schedule said that Biden is set to campaign in Philadelphia on September 24, although additional information about this visit has yet to be released.  

This will be the first forum in Philadelphia that will attract multiple Democratic presidential hopefuls since the Netroots Nation conference in July

The doors will open at the Pennsylvania Convention Center at 3 pm with the event slated to start at 4 pm. The event is only open to labor union members, not the general public, but is expected to be livestreamed, according to a spokesperson. The event is expected to wrap up at 8:30 pm.

This story was updated to update that former Congressman Joe Sestak will not be participating in the forum. A spokesperson for Sestak tells PoliticsPA that he has personally called the AFL-CIO representative in Pennsylvania to regret the change of plans.

9 Responses

  1. “Former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), who initially committed to participating in the forum, has changed plans and will be campaigning in Iowa on Tuesday. A spokesperson for the Sestak campaign tells PoliticsPA that he “personally called the AFL-CIO representative in Pennsylvania to regret the change of plans.”

    Sestak is quite unwelcome there. One union leader told me he was wishing Sestak would come to him for money, just so he could tell Joe: NO!

    Joe must know how unwelcome he is. If he showed up, he couldn’t raise enough union money to cover his bus-fare.

    Here are Joe’s “big Iowa plans”:

    September 17, 2019

    Lucas County Democrats
    Hardee’s, 2002 Court Avenue, Chariton, IA 50049
    Joe will be speaking to Lucas County Democrats at 5.30pm on Tuesday, September 17th, at Hardee’s, 2002 Court Avenue, Chariton, IA 50049.

    North West Des Moines Democrats
    Reed’s Hollow, 2710 Beaver Ave Des Moines, IA 50310
    Joe will be speaking to North West Des Moines Democrats at 7pm on Tuesday, September 17th, at Reed’s Hollow, 2710 Beaver Ave Des Moines, IA 50310.

  2. I am ???? % Pro-Union, Philadelphia is an will always be a Union City (State). Bernie Sanders is the only candidate that will assure that unions nationwide are strong and an American staple. I live in NJ (but worked & lived in Philadelphia for years) but support Philadelphia’s changing political climate (Progressive changes), I believe it’s time for the corruption in politics & Union leadership to end.
    I wish this was a public forum (allowing first come first seated) as well as all of Philadelphia’s unions (primary seating). Bernie Sanders speaks to our values and needs whether Black, Immigrant, Union, Muslim, Jewish, Latino, Asian, Women & LGBQT…..Philadelphia don’t miss the opportunity for greatness by voting Bernie Sanders 2020 Nominee, 2020 President Elect!
    Don’t be surprised if all the other candidates will be mirroring all of Bernie’s platform referendums on every topic…Why choose a follower when you got the guy “Who Wrote The Damn Bill (s)”?

  3. The headline should read “Bernie Sanders and 5 other Democrats you may be vaguely familiar with, delighted to attend forum with the word ‘President’ in it”

  4. Sestak at Union event? He’s the kind of employer that Unions were formed to oppose.

    It’s well documented that when Sestak was in congress, his staff was required to work 70+ hrs/wk, with no days off for months, and sometimes 14 hour days. Based on published congressional staff salaries, they were paid LESS than minimum wage per hour. Even Wal-Mart has to pay overtime.

    For his 2016 campaign, Sestak improperly listed full time campaign staff as “consultants”. Sestak was then able (until the FEC caught him) to avoid paying employment taxes and benefits (putting the burden on the already underpaid young workers).

    I hope the union members and especially union leadership will take Sestak to task on his history abuse of workers.

    1. Come off of your high horse, David Diano. Since when has working for a politician been a cake walk. They are jobs that you can lose at the drop of a hat and generally require a lot of time and effort. Singling out Sestak is bogus all the way. I don’t know Admiral Sestak but you are full of silliness. The candidates attending are not the stars of this cycle but still are interesting. Ryan is insightful and Williamson has interesting things to say. It’d be worth attending.

      1. I’ve worked on plenty of campaigns and knew people working for Sestak. Long hours and low pay are part of being a campaign worker and everyone accepts that. That being said, Sestak was notorious for treating his staffers poorly and he wouldn’t even pay the rank and file the generally accepted minimum salary of $2,000 per month. He was even offered help to raise the difference so that he could bring all his staff up to the minimum and he refused. He clearly doesn’t value the people that would be responsible for getting him elected and the work that they do. That’s unacceptable.

        1. Yup. I was about to say campaign work is notoriously hard and underpaid, although thankfully that seems to be changing.

          That said I worked in Democratic campaigns at the time Sestak was a member and his campaigns were notorious for overworking and underpaying staff relative to other Democrats in the area.

        2. Joe Hill-

          Listing full time campaign staff as outside consultants to avoid paying employment taxes is NOT part of being a campaign worker.

          The FEC caught him on this.

      2. Winston Throckmorton, Esquire

        The CONGRESSIONAL staff are NOT campaign workers nor volunteers. They are entitled to being paid legal wages, not illegally forced to work 70+ hours a week for less than minimum wage. It would be illegal for Wal-mart to pay a worker that little and no overtime.

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