by Randy Shannon
April 13, 2012
Leo Gerard, President of the USW, will appear at the headquarters of USW Local 8183 at 9:00 am Saturday morning to kick off a labor walk for Mark Critz. The union hall is located at 1445 Market St. in Bridgewater.
Mark Critz is the current Democratic Representative from the 12th CD. His district has been merged with the 4th CD, currently represented by Jason Altmire. Redistricting by the Republican legislature has thrown Critz and Altmire into a contest to win the Democratic nomination for the new 12th District.
The Beaver-Lawrence Labor Council, the Greater Westmoreland County Labor Council, the Allegheny County Labor Council, and the Johnstown-Somerset Regional Labor Council have all voted separately to endorse Mark Critz. The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, the United Steelworkers, the Service Employees Union, the Teamsters, the Firefighters, the Laborers, the Transport Workers, the Utility Workers, the Food and Commercial Workers, and the United Mine Workers have all endorsed Mark Critz.
“The Beaver-Lawrence Central Labor Council recommends that the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO endorse Mark Critz for Congress because we know that workers can count on him to stand up for them,” said Labor Council President Rick Galiano. “Mark Critz made creating and protecting jobs his top priority in Congress and he has consistently fought to make sure that China plays by the same rules as we do.”
Altmire has been endorsed by the Beaver, Allegheny, and Westmoreland Democratic committees.
Critz was recently endorsed by former President Bill Clinton and leaders of the House Democratic caucus.
The primary is unusual because the labor movement and the regular Democratic committee members, who are mostly local office holders, have chosen opposite sides in this contest. Altmire is connected with deep pocketed lobbyists and in his six years in office has developed a base in the Democratic Party. At the same time he has failed to support many initiatives that had the backing of the labor movement, especially health care reform, while Critz has more consistently voted for labor endorsed legislation.
The lifetime voting records of Critz and Altmire align with the Democratic Party at around 80%. Altmire is a member of the Blue Dog caucus. Critz styles himself as a conservative but not a Blue Dog.
Since the 2010 election Altmire has swung to the right and supported many bills passed by the Republican House majority. Altmire currently has a Democratic voting score in the 50% range. Critz has usually opposed the Republican legislation and currently has a Democratic voting score in the 70% range.
Recently Altmire voted for the Republican balanced budget amendment while Critz voted no. Altmire voted to include social security benefits as taxable income while Critz voted no. Altmire voted to repeal federal funding for state health care benefits while Critz voted no.
Altmire is a former lobbyist and has close ties to the corporate lobbyists in Washington. Altmire’s Keystone Fund has served to distribute lobbyist influence within the Democratic Party. This influence has helped to undermine the Democratic legislative agenda and to push the Democratic Party toward supporting corporate interests above the interests of working families.
Altmire’s role in depressing Democratic turnout was analyzed in this earlier article: Can the Democratic Party Survive the Blue Dogs.
Neither candidate received the endorsement of the PA 4th CD Chapter of Progressive Democrats of America. Neither has endorsed a national health care program. emergency jobs bills, or a full employment program.
Both candidates have supported corporate efforts to weaken environmental protections for workers and communities by supporting bills to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency. Both voted to suspend laws that control emissions from agribusiness operations, cement plants, and cross border air pollution.
Many Pennsylvanians are finding that the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is turning a blind eye to water pollution by the gas drilling industry. In Connoquenessing and Dimock, homeowners were told by the DEP that poisoned water was safe to drink. These Pennsylvania residents had to appeal to the EPA to intervene. When the DEP allowed the drillers to dump salt-laden fracking waste into the Monongahela River, businesses and water authorities were force to appeal to the EPA to intervene. Yet both Altmire and Critz voted for HR 2018, a bill to prevent the EPA from protecting our right to safe clean drinking water.
While Altmire has tried to capitalize on Critz’ recent vote against Planned Parenthood funding, both have consistently voted against the right of poor women to have access to all necessary health services.