Covid19 and Unions in Beaver County

Covid19 forced Shell to focus on workers’ health &safety at its construction site in Beaver County.

By Randy Shannon
Beaver County Blue

For months 8,000 workers were laboring, eating, and bus riding in close quarters. Some local construction workers said it was the safest cleanest site they had known. When Covid19 came around construction workers were worried but they couldn’t say anything. When a few cases showed up in Beaver County including one at Eaton Corp and one at Anchor-Hocking, then family members – spouses – decided the money Shell paid wasn’t worth risking the lives of their families.

Tina Shannon, the leader of Progressive Democrats of America starting receiving a few messages from people she knows, who had significant others working at Shell. They were concerned that the filth and the packed lunch rooms and buses would spread the virus.

The next day Tina posted a Call-In Day Event Page on Facebook and a massive email, asking people to call the County Commissioners and tell them to demand Shell shut down the construction site. As she publicized the Event, she got a lot of positive feedback. One local union friend did, however, respond by suggesting that her demand would “rob thousands of employees and their families of a living.”

Tina’s response, on March 18th, was: “Drawing everyone from throughout the County into this one place is a recipe of how to spread a virus. This is unconscionable. Take a look at Italy and then compare our very conservative numbers. We’re going to have to have federal legislation to give people income to get through this.”

In two days local folks, including people in Pittsburgh (located downwind) had bombed the County Commissioners with phone calls. The third day the County Commissioners held a press conference announcing that they wanted Shell to shut down construction immediately to prevent spread of Covid19. On March 18th Shell announced it was closing while claiming that it was safe and clean. Continue reading Covid19 and Unions in Beaver County

Trump ‘Sold Out Southwestern Pennsylvania’ With Recent Trade Deal

Sara Innamorato:  Our Democratic Socialist in Harrisburg  Sticking Up for All of Us.

By Sara Innamorato
Pittsburgh City Paper

Frb 14, 2020 – Everyone who grows up in Pittsburgh can narrate the rise and fall of the steel industry: the mills grew as immigrants arrived to take jobs in the blast furnaces, then the Great Strike occurred where industry titans ordered deadly violence upon workers calling for better wages and working conditions; later, the series of federal trade agreements were created, culminating with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), that sold out the workers and shut down the mills.

Our city’s population declined by half. Our family-sustaining union jobs crumbled, and our neighborhoods with them. But Pittsburghers are tough — we don’t like to complain, we’ve seen worse. And so we persevered and we adapted, and now Pittsburgh is widely seen as a success story. There is a sense of collective pride in our story of resiliency.

But as I knocked on doors during my 2018 bid for office, my neighbors told a more nuanced story. They told me they were working harder, but making less — getting by day-to-day was a stretch. They told me they were worried about their futures and their children’s futures.

The voters I spoke with, like so many of us in Southwestern Pennsylvania, had watched as previous trade agreements, like NAFTA, pushed local jobs overseas and drove down wages for the jobs that remained. People were fed up, and many voted for President Trump because he said he would “never sign any trade agreement that hurts our workers.”

I am no supporter of President Trump, but for the sake of the people I represent in Allegheny County, I had hoped this was a promise he would keep. Unfortunately, when he signed the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) on Wednesday, he broke that promise, betrayed those voters, and sold out Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Continue reading Trump ‘Sold Out Southwestern Pennsylvania’ With Recent Trade Deal

‘Turn PA Blue’ Is the Monster that Trump Has Awakened in Pennsylvania

By Maria Panaritis
Philadelphia Inquirer

Feb 15, 2020 – I meet Jamie Perrapato on a sidewalk in Conshohocken. The 48-year-old ex-commercial litigator, wife, mom, and cat owner is in black lycra and battle-ready leather boots — the kind with chunky heels perfect for pounding the pavement as you tell Republican incumbents across Pennsylvania: We are coming for you.

She’s the woman who, when she’d taken my call a few days earlier, had moved onto the ice-cold porch outside her Bala Cynwyd house while hunching over a laptop. I’d asked if everything was OK when I heard emergency sirens. Yep; she was just restlessly looking for a spreadsheet with voter-registration splits in towns where her troops are doing battle this year.

“You look for a Republican in the Southeast,” she’d said in a no-nonsense murmur. “We’re coming.”

This same Formerly Nonpolitical Citizen, in her sardonic rasp of a voice, describes the moderate Republicans she’s helped bounce out of GOP control in recent years as though they were nothing more than outdated G.I. Joe toys: “We picked a lot of the fiscal Republicans up.”

President Trump may be the Teflon beast who gets stronger the more radioactive hits he takes, but look at the Godzilla he’s awakened in Pennsylvania: Women-insurgents like Jamie Perrapato in the formerly saltine-bland suburbs of Philadelphia.

Jamie Perrapato, 48, of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., Executive Director for Turn PA Blue, instructs a volunteer canvassing door-to-door for Democratic electoral candidates in Northeast Philadelphia on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

These are I’m-no-longer-staying-quiet women. And they’ve formed a PAC that is throwing knockout punches.

Continue reading ‘Turn PA Blue’ Is the Monster that Trump Has Awakened in Pennsylvania

Jessica Benham Endorsed by Pittsburgh Trades Union

Jessica Benham - PHOTO: COURTESY THE CAMPAIGN

Photo: courtesy the campaign: Jessica Benham

Following Democratic committee snub

Pittsburgh City Paper

Disability-rights advocate Jessica Benham (D-South Side) has been running for Pennsylvania state House District 36 for several months and picked up a number of Democratic endorsements along the way, including Pittsburgh City Council President Theresa Kail Smith (D-West End) and state Sen. Lindsey Williams (D-West View).

But on Sunday, the Allegheny County Democratic Committee (ACDC) endorsed Benham’s opponent Heather Kass (D-Carrick) despite Kass’ past social media posts where she praised Donald Trump, decried the Affordable Care Act, and shared a far-right meme about Hillary Clinton.

The Allegheny-Fayette Labor Council issued a rebuke of the ACDC endorsement of Kass, saying, “There is no room — in the labor movement or in the Democratic party — for someone who trashes the Affordable Care Act and pushes propaganda from right-wing think tanks that exist to attack unions, hurt workers, and help corporate interests.”

WESA reported that AFLC didn’t endorse any candidate, but that Benham came closest to the threshold of votes needed to get the labor council’s endorsement.

Today, a local union that sits within the AFLC has announced it is endorsing Benham in the District 36 race.

Operating Engineers Local 66 is backing Benham and Local 66 business manager Jim Kunz says in a press release that Benham “will be an advocate for our workers and for family-sustaining union jobs in the natural gas industry, ensuring that our members will have a voice in conversations about jobs and the environment.”

OE Local 66 represents more than 7,900 members in 33 Western Pennsylvania counties as well as three counties in Ohio. Members complete construction and other work for contractors, private businesses, and municipalities. OE Local 66 members are currently working on the ethane cracker plant in Beaver County and a power plant in Lawrence County.

“In my ongoing conversations with them, we have discussed the necessity of a public policy that protects our environment without leaving workers behind,” said Benham in a press release.

“When I talk about clean air and water, I want to center everyone who is impacted.”

Benham says she looks forward to working with unions, community members, and environmental advocates to move the region toward a sustainable energy future.

Continue reading Jessica Benham Endorsed by Pittsburgh Trades Union

More Turmoil vs. Rightwing Dems in Allegheny Party

Breaking: State Rep. Austin Davis Resigns As Vice-Chair Of Allegheny County Democratic Committee

jessica Benham
Jessica Benham and Austin Davis. (Photo from the candidate’s Twitter.)

By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com

Last week, several elected officials called for the resignation of Allegheny County Democratic Committee Chair Eileen Kelly for press-conference-turned-shit-show in which she defended the endorsement of a candidate who thinks all addicts should OD and then making offensive comments about the past addiction struggles of County Councilor Bethany Hallam.

And while Kelly has refused to step down, there was a resignation today from a high-ranking party official, Vice-Chair Austin Davis of Mckeesport. Since last Sunday’s endorsement, Davis has thrown his support behind two unendorsed candidates, Jessica Benham and Summer Lee, which is a violation of the ACDC charter.

In a letter to Kelly, first reported by WESA’s Chris Potter, Davis said:

“I believe in the Democratic Party and the people that make up the party! It has become clear that I cannot best serve the party and its people as the vice-chairman of the ACDC. Please Accept this letter as my official resignation as vice-chairman of the ACDC, effective immediately.

The events of recent days have crystalized that we do not share the same values and hold vastly different views in the direction that this party should be moving!

“I will always be committed to the values of the Democratic Party and I will work tirelessly to support and elect people who support those values.

“However, I can not remain in this position under your leadership.”

The issues surrounding the party began in mid-January when Heather Kass, a little-known South Hills Democrat was hand-picked by retiring, Conservative state Democratic state Rep.Harry Readshaw to run for his seat. However, hours after the endorsement, the Pittsburgh Current found several Facebook posts from Kass that not only supported Trump but also called people on public assistance “lazy idiots,” and said addicts needed to “OD” so there would be “less shit in the world.”

 

Her posts began in 2015 but she continued to post offensive content as recent as last summer when she posted this image of her husband:

The party endorsed Kass, angering many in the party, not just those considered progressive. But under party bylaws, ACDC committee members were expected to support the endorsed candidate without fail, however, many quickly defected to Kass’ progressive opponent, Jessica Benham., including Davis, the then-vice-chair. Then last week, Kelly had a press conference in which she doubled down her support for Kass and said this about County Councilor Bethany Hallam:

Kelly says that Bethany Hallam went through a hard time with drug addiction and was forgiven … but when Heather Kass apologized for posting critcisms of Obamacare, etc. in a moment of hardship, no one forgives her: “Why is it good for them and not for her?”

Davis’ resignation shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those following this story. This past weekend, Davis spent time knocking doors and canvassing with Jessica Benham:

But this isn’t the only issue to rise out of the Feb. 16 endorsement process. At that meeting, only one incumbent did not receive the endorsement and that was Summer Lee, the region’s first black woman elected to the state legislature. She faced an opponent backed by Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald. And while Kelly supported Kass, she ripped Fitzgerald for damaging the party for not backing Lee. Many people are upset about Lee’s treatment by the committee, however, there were some voices who couldn’t understand why Kelly supported Kass,

Since then Support around lee has been growing. In a Monday press release, Lee reported a surge in endorsements and fundraising from organizations, unions and many long-time elected officials. The complete release is below:

“Western Pennsylvanian State Rep. Summer Lee (D-34) has received a surge in donations and a growing list of new support from labor unions, community organizations, and elected officials following news of her primary challenge by Chris Roland, a North Braddock councilman. Rep. Lee won her seat by defeating a long-term incumbent in 2018 and is the first Black woman to represent Western Pennsylvania in the state house. 

Last week the Working Families Party endorsed Rep. Lee, and is providing strategic support to her race. She has received a surge of grassroots contributions. To date, she has raised $108,176 for her reelection, with an average donation of $83.45. 

“Rep. Summer Lee is committed to fighting for working families in western Pennsylvania, and that is why we’re committed to fighting for her,” said Nicolas O’Rourke, Organizing Director for Pennsylvania Working Families Party. “We need allies in Harrisburg who support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, who care about fighting climate change in our backyard, and who run for office because they genuinely care about the communities they serve, not just their high-dollar donors.” 

Lisa Rhodes, Chair of the PA Democratic Black Caucus, State Senators Katie Muth (D-44), Larry Farnese (D- 1), Lindsey Williams (D-38)  and state representatives Frank Dermody (D-33), Dan Frankel (D-23), Austin Davis (D-35), Ed Gainey (D-24), Jake Wheatley (D-19), Malcolm Kenyatta (D-181), Joe Hohenstein (D-177), Chris Rabb (D-200), Elizabeth Fiedler (D-184), Danielle Otten (D-155), Sara Innamorato (D-21) have also endorsed Lee

“I enthusiastically support Rep. Summer Lee because she is a bold new progressive voice in Harrisburg. In her first term in office, she has unwaveringly lifted up the concerns and priorities of poor and working class people, and all Pennsylvanians who value racial, economic and environmental justice,” said Rep. Chris Rabb (D-200).

“Rep. Summer Lee is a strong Democratic legislator who inspires us to do better things in Harrisburg. She made history by winning two years ago and her voice is needed at the Pennsylvania Capitol.” said Rep. Frank Dermody (D-33). 

Amongst labor, Rep. Lee is endorsed by several labor unions, including SEIU HCPA, SEIU 32BJ, and SEIU State Council. “We will not let such a champion of everyday working people get pushed out of office,” said Gabe Morgan, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU for Pennsylvania and Delaware. “Rep. Summer Lee is committed to making sure that workers across this state have the right to organize and join a union, and that workers get fair wages and strong contracts. 32BJ will knock on thousands of doors to ensure Rep. Lee returns to the Pennsylvania State House.”

Rep. Summer Lee has received the support from progressive groups like Democracy for America, Collective PAC, Make the Road Action, Free The Ballot, One Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Stands Up, Pennslyvania Young Democrats, Young Democrats of Allegheny County, and Black Voters Matter. While many of these groups have not gone through their endorsement process, all are voicing their support for Lee’s performance in office so far. 

“We support Rep Summer Lee because she is a champion of criminal justice reform in Pennsylvania,”  said Robert Saleem Holbrook, Free The Ballot, which has endorsed Lee. “It is important that our communities have a representative who believes in the values of restorative justice, and recognizes that the communities most impacted by violence are also the ones most impacted by mass incarceration.”

“One PA members knocked on thousands of doors in 2018 to support Summer Lee because of her clear vision for Western PA. In the short time she’s been in Harrisburg, she has established a track record of alignment with our members’ values,” said Erin Kramer, Executive Director at One Pennsylvania. “Summer makes sure that underserved and under resourced communities in Allegheny County get the resources and representation they need to thrive. Our members are headed back into their endorsement process soon and we will only support candidates who are accountable to the people and not corporate interests.” 

Rep. Lee has been a champion on the issues that matter most to working families since before taking office, and she’s continued to champion issues like ending mass incarceration, full and fair funding for our schools, labor rights, $15 as a minimum wage, immigration rights. Since taking office in 2018, Rep.Lee has sponsored over 71 bills and helped generate over two million in state grants to her community.

The Working Families Party is a grassroots political party that recruits, trains, and elects the next generation of progressive leaders to office. In 2018, the WFP helped Rep. Rabb in his first bid for reelection, defeating a very well funded Democratic primary opponent, and going on to earning the most votes of any state representative in the general election. In 2017 the WFP knocked on 70,000 doors to elect District Attorney Larry Krasner. And in 2018, the WFP helped Liz Fiedler win her 4-way primary race with 51% of the vote. In 2019 the WFP recruited and helped elect Kendra Brooks for City Council At-Large, the first city-wide third-party victory in Philadelphia history. 

In 2019, the WFP helped elect longtime tenants organizer and progressive champion Jumaane Williams as Public Advocate in New York City, swelled the ranks of Chicago city council progressive caucus, helped make Stephen Mason the first Black mayor of Cedar Hill, Texas, helped insurgent Latinx LGBTQ social worker Candi CdeBaca oust a longtime incumbent on the Denver City Council, and elected other council members from Morgantown, W.Va., to Phoenix, Ariz. 

Continue reading More Turmoil vs. Rightwing Dems in Allegheny Party

Pittsburgh Dems Oppose 1st Black Woman State Rep from Western PA for Re-Election

Both UE and SEIU Still Back Summer Lee

State Representative Summer Lee (photo courtesy of Pa House Democrats)

Payday Report

The decision of the county party to oppose Lee came a week after the Pittsburgh-based Allegheny-Fayette Labor Council voted to oppose Lee. However, UE and SEIU have both backed Lee.

Lee, a former organizer with the Fight For $15, has drawn fierce opposition from the region’s building trades for her opposition to fracking in her district and her support of the Green New Deal. Already, the region’s more conservative unions have pumped more than $67,000 into her opponent, pro-fracking North Braddock councilman Chris Roland.

On Sunday, the Allegheny County Democratic Committee met and voted overwhelmingly to endorse Lee’s opponent, Roland. Much like the Labor Council’s endorsement, Lee was the only incumbent not to endorsed by the labor-dominated Committee.

In addition to opposing Lee, the Committee voted to oppose progressive challenger Jessica Benham vying for a South Side based state representative’s seat. Instead, they choose to endorse Heather Kass, who openly bragged on social media that she supported President Trump.

For Lee, who defeated a 20-year incumbent by a margin of 68%-32% to become state representative in 2018, the snub was yet another sign of the false promises of the white-dominated political machines of Western Pennsylvania.

“The Democratic Party claims it wants more “diversity.” Claims it respects the Black ppl who form its base. Claims it supports women leadership. Claims it trusts the Black women who propel it to victory every time,” wrote Lee on Twitter. “The lie detector test determined…..that was a lie.”

Since the announcement that the local Democratic Party would oppose her re-election, Lee says she has received more than 200 individual donations and an outpouring of support. She says that dozens of people have signed up to volunteer, and the campaign’s grassroots capability is growing as a result of the backlash against the white-dominated Western PA political establishment.

“We know they never wanted us at their little table. We’re still eating, though!” wrote Lee on Facebook.

(Full Disclosure: My father, Gene Elk, is the elected Director of Organization of the United Electrical Workers (UE), which has endorsed Summer Lee’s campaign. Representative Lee and I both attended Woodland Hills High School together, while it was still under federal desegregation orders in the early 2000s). 

Fracking-Well Blast 60 Miles From Pittsburgh Leaked More Methane Than Some Countries Emit In a Year

By Ryan Deto
Pittsburgh City Paper

Dec 17, 2019 – In 2018, a natural-gas well exploded near Powhatan Point in Ohio, a small town that sits along the Ohio River, just 60 miles from Pittsburgh as the crow flies. The fracking well was owned and operated by a subsidiary of oil giant Exxon.

According to a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this single explosion emitted a gargantuan amount of methane into the atmosphere. Over the 20 days it took for Exxon to plug the well, more than 57,000 metric tons of methane was released, at a rate of about 120 metric tons of methane per hour.

This figure, from one well in less than three weeks, eclipsed the annual amount of methane that is emitted by the oil and gas industries of France, Norway, and the Netherlands combined. The Ohio blast is now the largest known methane leak on record in the U.S. and was twice as large as the previous largest leak that occurred at an oil and gas storage facility in California in 2015.

@NaomiAKlein: Terrifying story about a blowout in Ohio that released “as much methane as the entire oil and gas industries of some nations release in a year.” EDF – which has aggressively pushed NatGas as a “bridge fuel” – explains that this could be happening every day https://nyti.ms/34tdR7f

The findings mark a step forward in using space technology to detect leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas sites worldwide.

Methane is an extremely powerful greenhouse gas. Studies vary, but methane is generally considered to be between 25-84 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The study determined the scope of the leak using satellite technology, and the authors praised the mapping system to reveal just how damaging the incident was in terms of how much greenhouse gas was emitted. Continue reading Fracking-Well Blast 60 Miles From Pittsburgh Leaked More Methane Than Some Countries Emit In a Year

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