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Steelworkers Endorse Critz

By Tara Jerry, Contributing Writer and Keegan Gibson, Managing Editor

In the competitive race for the new 12th congressional district, the United Steelworkers union announced their endorsement of U.S. Rep. Mark Critz.  Critz is facing fellow incumbent Jason Altmire in the Democratic primary after the newly redrawn congressional map combined their districts.

“In Congress, Mark Critz is fighting tirelessly to protect and create jobs in Western Pennsylvania,” said United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard. “In addition, he has tirelessly fought unfair trade deals and job-killing currency manipulation by China.”  By devaluing its currency, Gerard argued, China is making it more difficult for manufacturing jobs to return to the United States.

In a statement, Critz called the endorsement “a major boost to my campaign.” The union has more than 30,000 members and retirees in the 12th district to help Critz’s election efforts.  Critz also recently received the endorsements of the United Mine Workers and the Laborers District Council of Western Pennsylvania.

Unlike most unions, the Steelworkers’ national headquarters is located right in Pittsburgh. It includes a 30-station call center equipped with predictive dialing.

In the hierarchy of unions in the region, the USW is the largest yet to endorse in the race.

“I put the Steelworkers’ endorsement on a par with any of the big trades but not as powerful as a united building trade front,” said a source familiar with Pa. labor politics. “SEIU, AFSCME, the teachers, and Steelworkers are pretty similar in weight, but the USW has an edge thanks to the resources of their national HQ in Pittsburgh.”

Indeed, a few labor sources PoliticsPA spoke noted that the USW’s resources came to Altmire’s benefit in 2006, when he defeated incumbent Rep. Melissa Hart.

On the merits, Altmire’s and Critz’s career voting records are very similar on Democratic party affiliation in general union issues specifically. But labor made a concerted effort to help Critz win his 2010 special election, while Altmire upset many in the community with his vote against the Affordable Care Act.

Recently released internal polling from the Altmire camp shows him leading Critz by 16 points.  In addition, Altmire currently represents more of the new district, more than 2 to 1.

Pennsylvania’s primaries are set for April 24.  Pa. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai is expected to announce his candidacy on the Republican side and will face off against Edgeworth attorney Keith Rothfus, the GOP’s 2010 candidate against Altmire.

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