All posts by randyshannon

PA 12th Congressional District in Contention

Pittsburgh City Paper

 FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2017

Democrats have a rural problem in Southwestern Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional district

Posted By  on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 2:52 PM


  • CP photo by Ryan Deto

On July 12, a group of left-leaning protesters rallied outside of U.S. Congressman Keith Rothfus’ (R-Sewickley) office in Ross Township. They were some 15 members strong, and they hooted and hollered for an hour, expressing displeasure with their representative for failing to hold a town halland his support of the Republicans’ attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We are here to keep the momentum going and show how [Rothfus] is not representing us,” said Michelle Raab of PA 12 Progressives, the group that organized the protest.

PA 12 Progressives has been demonstrating outside of Rothfus’ North Hills office every Wednesday for months and has even started to attract Republican counter-protesters. On July 12, three counter-protesters held signs reading “Drain the Swamp” and “Support Trump,” but they were overwhelmed by the energy coming from the PA 12 progressives, who even had a truck clad in protest signs drive by every few minutes to garner more attention.

While the group’s energy in suburban Allegheny County is starting to shift the traditionally Republican area’s support from red to blue, it’s the fight outside of suburbia that Rothfus opponents may want to focus more energy on.

When Rothfus won re-election in 2014, he received 60 percent of the vote in the Allegheny County section of his district, which includes wealthy northern Pittsburgh suburbs like Fox Chapel, Franklin Park and Pine Township. In 2016, he received 59 percent. While modest, this shift fits into the nationwide trend of upper-income suburban areas increasing their support for Democrats.

But outside of Allegheny County, Rothfus has been increasing his support which could render any suburban shift moot. The 12th District includes parts of six Southwestern Pennsylvania counties, stretching from Ellwood City to Somerset. Every county in the 12th District outside of Allegheny has become more Republican since Rothfus took office, but none as much as the Cambria County section.

In 2012, Rothfus lost the Cambria County section to former Rep. Mark Critz (D-Johnstown), only receiving 37 percent of the vote there, even though he won the district that year. In 2014, Rothfus won Cambria County with 56 percent of the vote against Democratic challenger Erin McClelland, and in 2016, increased his Cambria County margin receiving 65 percent of the vote. In just four years, Rothfus gained more than 27 percentage points against Democratic rivals and swung Cambria County from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican.

Mary Lou Davis, of the liberal-leaning, grassroots group Indivisible Johnstown, says this shift will make flipping the 12th District a difficult task. “We are as red as we can get right now,” she says.

Davis explains that Cambria County was never “quite as liberal” as Pennsylvania Democratic strongholds, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, even though it remained in Democratic control under former Rep. John Murtha (D-Johnstown) and Critz for 39 years. She says some culturally conservative values, like pro-life stances and gun rights, have always remained important to many Cambria voters.

And while Indivisible Johnstown is not a proponent of those culturally conservative values, Davis does feel a focus on the rural parts of the 12th District would be most effective in getting a Democrat elected.

“I think the messaging needs to sway the Cambria County voters more than the Allegheny voters,” says Davis.

She says this is crucial because unlike other gerrymandered, suburban/rural Pennsylvania districts, the 12th district is still gaining Republican votes. For example, in Pennsylvania’s 7th District, which stretches from suburban Philadelphia to Berks County and has been mocked for looking like Donald Duck kicking Goofy, Democrats actually gained two percentage points from 2014 to 2016. But in the 12th District, Republicans gained 5 percentage points, even as the Allegheny County portion (the most suburban part of the district) became slightly more Democratic.

“The Democrats had put out a target list of flippable seats, most of those were moderate,” says Davis of a list release in January targeting 59 Republican-held U.S. House seats. “But we have a situation here [in the 12th District], and it is going to be extremely hard to flip this.”

Meanwhile, Rothfus appears to know his support in Cambria County and adjacent Somerset County (which has increased its support of Rothfus by 22 percentage points up to 76 percent of the vote since 2012) is important. Since being re-elected in November 2016, Rothfus has penned three op-eds in the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, which covers Cambria and Somerset counties; during this same time, he he has only co-written one in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, while providing none to or the Beaver County Times.

On top of this, Davis says providing messaging for a strong Democratic candidate won’t be easy. With President Donald Trump and Rothfus remaining popular in the region, she says Democrats will have to offer an especially strong counter-narrative to persuade area residents to vote Democrat.

Tom Prigg (D-McCandless), a candidate for the 12th District, has discussed the importance of messaging to rural voters and has received coverage from the Tribune-Democrat. Another candidate, Aaron Anthony (D-Shaler), was featured in Somerset’s The Daily American, but candidate Beth Tarasi, of Sewickley, has yet to receive any coverage in Cambria and Somerset counties.

Davis is hopeful that Rothfus’ challenges will get more coverage over time, and says Indivisible Johnstown is hosting a candidate forum on Aug. 8, so area residents can meet the Democratic candidates.

“This might be the first time the names and faces of the candidates running against Rothfus are out there,” says Davis.

We Are Patients

No Politico Wants to Know: We Are Patients

“Democrats must stop simply pushing back against the repeal of the ACA/Obamacare as a strategy to make the Republicans look bad leading into yet another campaign cycle for 2018,” writes Donna Smith. (Photo:

It is hell out here for patients right now in America.  There may be a swampy, dirty-flash flood going on in D.C. right now, but there are precious few elected officials who see patients as patients.  We are health industry consumers.  We are political props for both sides of another ridiculous, costly and futile battle over who will please the industry and its political champions enough — who will grow profits across the board.  Patients are on the losing end of this upheaval.

Patients haven’t had access to our doctors without the elephant in the room for a very long time now, and that elephant is greed, plain and simple.  Until we decide that healthcare access through the expansion of Medicare is the best way to finally re-engage around healthcare for patients who need it, we will fail. Until we move away from greed-driven, winner-takes-all motivation for measuring health system success, we will not break the cycle of going from one dysfunctional model to another.

Greed in the systems — health and political — is nothing new.  But in 2017, that greed has reached epic levels.  Republicans are smirking and smiling their collective way toward making sure the wealthy are happy and the health industry dollars keep flowing into their coffers.  Democrats must stop simply pushing back against the repeal of the ACA/Obamacare as a strategy to make the Republicans look bad leading into yet another campaign cycle for 2018.  Patients are not stupid people.  Patients know when they are being worked.  Patients are angry and worried and even scared in some cases.  Taking advantage of that anger, worry and fear for political gain is among the greediest things going on in this period.

The greed that is harming patients in the U.S. healthcare system is growing exponentially.  Greedy insurance companies.  Greedy providers — including greedy doctors (say it isn’t true), dentists, hospital systems, etc.  Greedy pharmaceutical companies.  Patients are never allowed to forget the greedy demands — premiums, co-pays and deductibles are calculated and collected from us before any healthcare is delivered.  Most patients take that into account before submitting to the embarrassment and sadness of not being able to pay and the disgust about paying so much and in advance of any services actually rendered.  Patients are so reviled by the entire system that the system works to protect itself from us.  Patients ought never to forget our current place in the U.S. healthcare industry.  Widgets.  Patients are widgets.  Broken widgets, damaged widgets and imperfect widgets interrupt profit flow.

The greed that is harming patients in the U.S. political system is at least as insidious as that shown by industry behavior.  Our politicians calculate their own political outcomes first and foremost over anything patients may need.  Political greed is driving even those politicians and political advocacy groups who espouse a position of caring about health and patients to first calculate if they will prosper under any given course of action — will their latest campaign, photo op, town hall meeting, event/rally, or other carefully scripted plan benefit their own positions?  This political greed is at work on both sides of the aisle.  Patients are useful, sometimes, and patients sometimes allow ourselves to be used if we believe telling our stories will make a difference.  As a patient who has spent the past decade watching the political maneuverings around healthcare reform, I know the good and the bad parts about being a patient who speaks the truth openly.  It still boggles my mind that so many people in so many ways just do not want to be bothered hearing from patients.  If the current moves by the Democrats to hear how fearful many of us are about losing our coverage prove genuine, those Democrats will swiftly offer up not just a defense of a few provisions of the ACA/Obamacare but a real healthcare transformation.  I heard former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm ponder this week why we wouldn’t move to expand Medicare to cover more people.  Why not, indeed?

Just in case anyone wonders any more how this turmoil is playing in living rooms across America, let me tell you how the post election period has gone in my home.  Almost immediately after November 8, 2016, I knew I would be in trouble.  As a 62 year-old cancer survivor who was seriously harmed by a 2015 hospital-acquired MRSA infection that caused sepsis and pulmonary embolisms and also required surgery to remove an infected vein from my wrist to my chest wall, I must use supplemental oxygen and multiple medications just to stay functional and working to pay our bills.  We live in a modest, two-bedroom, 950 sq. ft. apartment in a working class area of Denver.  I purchase my health insurance coverage on the Connect for Health Colorado ACA exchange.  I work three jobs.  My husband is retired and relies on his Medicare coverage and a supplemental plan for his healthcare access.  His sole source of income is Social Security.  Try as we might, we cannot figure out any other way to do this.  We have talked divorce to find a way to affordable coverage.  But to stay afloat, I can never allow us to have so little income that we would qualify for Medicaid benefits.  We are, like so many working class people, caught between the rock and the hard place that was designed for us by those in the greedy class.

Unless we move to a Medicare For All system, millions of Americans will face more intense greed and higher costs.  Hospitals and doctors with fewer “customers” will need to charge more to continue making big profits, and insurance companies will really watch what is a covered benefit once they lose millions of people who once sought coverage.  Costs will not go down.  So, what will happen to patients under the “Deplorable Healthcare Act” that the Trump-Ryan-McConnell cabal loves so much?  And what will happen to patients should the Dems prevail and retain parts of the ACA/Obamacare without the ability to pass any improvements to that law?  The organization for which I work, Progressive Democrats of America, is calling on all who call themselves progressives to support a real solution and not just a push back on the ACA.  We are asking one of our progressive champions, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, to stand with us.

Well, in the interest of honesty, some patients are already planning for the eventuality of various scenarios.  Some patients are writing and calling their governors and their Congressional members and showing up to express outrage and worry.  I sent the message below to my doctor last evening, to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Congresswoman Diana DeGette, D-CO1, this morning, and now through this piece, to a broader audience.  I believe the only way we will make it through any of this is giving one another the gift of being honest about it.  It is too critical to do otherwise.


Good evening,

1. I am due to get a B12 blood test when I drop by the lab, and I wondered if you might be willing for me to have a CBC as well. I have swollen glands or something along my jawline on the left, and I feel a bit puny. I’m guessing it is some sort of virus thing but the gland hurts a bit and it is not changing in size one way or the other over the 10 days I have noticed it there and felt a bit “off.”

2. This is a longer term, more difficult question. I would like to know what Kaiser’s policy (and yours) is around Colorado’s “right to die” law. Because I am a cancer survivor and because this darned COPD/chronic bronchitis and asthma stuff combined with the back/hip/wrist issues and pain are my baseline in my health world, and because there is a possibility I will lose access to any health coverage or care under the political conditions, I am deeply worried about suffering without access to care or alternatively burdening my family with costs that will be overwhelming. If at some point I were to face diminished health that will likely become life-threatening without meds/inhalers/oxygen or other needed care and the inability to afford further care without coverage, would Kaiser allow prescribing of the drugs that would allow me to die? I am really sorry to even ask this, but it is weighing on my mind, and I want to know I have options. I understand that so long as I have coverage and access to my medication and oxygen this is unnecessary to consider, but things may not stay this way for me. I worry about it and my husband gets angry if I even mention the subject.

In any case, thank you for reading this.

Peace, your patient,



Final note: some patients have absolutely no confidence that the greedy in the healthcare industry and in politics can or will be stopped unless and until we get wiser and pass an expansion of the well loved, all-American Medicare to cover everyone.  Politicos may want to consider that a strong majority of the Democratic base supports such a model, and an overall majority of Americans of all political persuasions do too.  Medicare For All stops all of this trauma and uncertainty.  For good.  Patients can be patients.

Donna Smith
Donna Smith is the executive director of Progressive Democrats of America.  PDA’s mission is to strengthen the voice of progressive ideas inside and outside the Democratic Party by using “inside/outside” and “grassroots fusion” models of working both in the Democratic Party as well as working with other progressive organizations both inside and outside the Party.

Beaver Rally for Jobs, Peace, Justice Jan. 21st


By Tina Shannon

We had 275 people at our Courthouse. Speakers were Don Siegel, an Intl VP from IBEW, our Central Labor Council president, our NAACP president, our PDA president (me), our peace group president, our NOW president (who is also a CLUW coordinator), and a local African American teacher who also wrote a hit song in the early 70s .

The event was MC’d by the chairperson of the Labor Council’s Community Services Committee & me(he is also chair of out Moral Mondays Coalition, which sponsored the event). The picture was taken by the newly elected secretary of our newly reconstituted Young Dems chapter.

Our event was pretty much a big love fest, creating a real feeling of community. 30 people followed us to a local restaurant to break bread together & get to know us. It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done.

I just wanted you all to know.

Love & solidarity forever


Don Siegel, Intl VP IBEW

Rick Galiano, President Beaver-Lawrence Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Will Sallis, President Beaver County NAACP

Tina B Shannon, president 12th Congressional District Chapter Progressive Democrats of America

Melvin Steals, local retired educator & community leader

Janet Hill, president Beaver County NOW

Nancy O’Leary, president Beaver County Peacelinks

Mark Benkart, chairperson Moral Mondays Coalition of Beaver County & Chairperson of Beaver-Lawrence Labor Council’s Community Services Committee

Our event was pretty much a big love fest, creating a real feeling of community. 30 people moved to a local restaurant to break bread together. It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done.

Republicans Have No Replacement for Affordable Care Act


This is why Republicans can’t find a replacement for Obamacare

 A key reason the Republican Party is having such a hard time with the replacement part of “repeal and replace” is that Obamacare is virtually the same privatized mandate plan it pushed for since President Richard Nixon first proposed the National Health Strategy in 1971 then again in 1974. Then the GOP revived its privatized mandate plan again in 1993 with then-Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole helping to propose the Health Equity and Access Reform Today act or HEART as the alternative to the proposed single-payer plan Health Security Act of 1993 — commonly known as “Hillarycare“ — and then again when then-Gov. Mitt Romney proposed — and succeeded in implementing — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2006 in Massachusetts.

Today’s Affordable Care Act is very similar to the privatized mandate plan the Republicans pushed for 40 years. President Barack Obama — as a compromise to have basic health reform passed — used this same GOP blueprint with one significant change: adding a public option alongside the GOP’s privatized mandate plan (basically, Obama proposed adding an option to join a form of Medicare).

Eventually the public option was stripped out of the 2010 ACA bill in further compromise to attract bipartisan support for the bill, leaving in its place the very plan that the GOP wanted and pushed for decades. Unfortunately, the ACA did not receive a single vote from the Republican Party that created the plan’s primary concepts as alternative to a single-payer — “Medicare for all” — type of system.

As a result, the GOP’s repeal and replace position backs it into a challenging corner. It has no real replacement plan because the ACA is essentially the privatized mandate it has pursued for so many years. The only possible alternative to a 40-year-old GOP plan would be reverting to the old system, leaving millions of people without full coverage or proper health care. Even those with coverage — perhaps through their employers — could then once again have a cap on lifesaving treatments, such as those for cancer, and thereby reinstating the privatized insurance “panels” deciding the profitability of patient treatment versus patient outcomes.

Since the Republicans will not likely propose a single-payer program, that only leaves tweaking the current Obamacare plan. However, if they instead repeal with no replacement they risk a collapse of the system as insurers pull out of the program with a result that could worsen the health of millions of Americans, dramatically raise health care costs and move America further away from the patient-centric health system that is so much more successful at a lower cost than those of 36 other countries.

— Michael Buxbaum, Chicago

Rep. Rothfus Votes to Allow Cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid


Congressional Progressive Caucus: House GOP Vote Twice Within 24 Hours to Allow Cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security

January 13, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), and First Vice Chair Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) issued the following statement after the House GOP Majority voted twice against CPC’s amendment to block cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits.

“House Republicans voted not once, but twice to block the CPC amendment to prevent cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. President-elect Trump promised at least 13 times during his campaign he would not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits. The President-elect vowed to support these programs that American families depend on, so why won’t House Republicans vote to protect these earned benefits?”

Last night, the House GOP Majority Republicans blocked the amendment for consideration in Rules Committee. Today, the House GOP Majority also defeated an attempt to bring up the amendment for a vote in the full House. A copy of the CPC “No Benefit Cuts” amendment can be found here.

List of Groups Supporting this Amendment: AARP, Alliance for Retired Americans, AFL-CIO, International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Social Security Works, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Economic Opportunity Institute, Progressive Democrats of America, People Demanding Action, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, CREDO Action, National Nurses United, Latinos for a Secure Retirement

Cosponsors (48): Pocan, Ellison, Grijalva, Lee, SchakowskyTonko, Nadler, Wilson, Cummings, Wasserman Schultz, Carson, Holmes Norton, Cohen, Garamendi, Watson Coleman, Huffman, Nolan, Raskin, Espaillat, Foster, Pingree, Meng, McGovern, Pascrell, Bonamici, Clark, Lieu, Cicilline, O’Halleran, Beatty, Boyle, DeFazio, Green, Jeffries, Moore, Kildee, Sánchez, Takano, Frankel, McCollum, Robert A. Brady, John Conyers, JR., John Lewis, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Serrano, Carolyn Maloney, Sean Patrick Maloney, Judy Chu, Ted Deutch, Tim Walz and Dina Titus.


The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) is the largest values-based caucus within the House Democratic Caucus, with over 70 members standing up for progressive ideals in Washington and throughout the country. Since 1991, the CPC has advocated for progressive policies that prioritize working Americans over corporate interests, fight economic and social inequality, and promote civil liberties. The CPC champions progressive policy solutions like comprehensive immigration reform, a $15 national minimum wage, fair trade, gun violence reform, debt-free college, and making the federal government a Model Employer.


Rep. Rothfus Votes to End Rules Protecting Water, Air, and Workers

water-protectionJUST HOURS AFTER passing the very first bill of the new Congress on Wednesday — one designed to roll back a range of environmental and consumer regulations — House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., celebrated with a corporate lobbying firm at a fundraiser for his campaign committee.

The vote on the Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017 took place at 4:48 p.m. on Wednesday. The fundraiser, at the offices of the BGR Group, a major lobbying firm, started at 7 p.m.

The bill would amend existing law to allow Congress to repeal en masse multiple regulations finalized since the end of May last year. The law is believed to be aimed at rolling back a rule designed to deter mining companies from polluting drinking water sources, rules designed to curb hazardous methane emissions from fracking sites, and a rule that extends the threshold for overtime pay to workers, among others.

BGR Group represents Chevron, Celgene Corp, the Consumer Technology Association, Eli Lilly & Co., Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson, Raytheon, Southern Company, and Xerox, among many other clients, and has helped a number of clients work on regulatory policy.

The high-dollar event had a $10,000 price tag for each sponsor of the event, $2,500 for each political action committee, and $1,500 per individual, according to an invitation obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy and shared with The Intercept.

Bridget Gribbin, a fundraiser for Speaker Ryan who helped organize the event, declined to comment, but a representative of the BGR Group confirmed that Ryan  attended.

Lobbyists are particularly eager to use the newly empowered Republican Congress to sweep away the environmental, financial, labor and consumer-oriented rules implemented by the Obama administration.

The U.S Chamber of Commerce, the lobbying trade group for large firms like Google and Goldman Sachs, made the Midnight Rules Relief legislation a top priority. Other trade groups representing a wide swath of business interests, such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses, have also lobbied in support of the measure.

The first week of legislative action for the 115th Congress began with a thwarted attempt by Republicans to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent body that investigates misconduct, in particular between lawmakers and lobbyists. After a public outcry, the GOP dropped the attempt to weaken the office.


The link to the Roll Call on this vote is here:

Wilkes Barre Labor Council and Two USW Locals Endorse Medicare for All

medicareforallWilkes Barre Labor Council and Two USW Locals Endorse HR 676

The Greater Wilkes Barre Labor Council and two United Steelworkers locals in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, have endorsed Congressman John Conyers’ HR 676, national single payer health care legislation, Expanded and Improved Medicare for All.

The Labor Council, comprised of 47 locals from 28 unions representing 10,000 members, endorsed HR 676 at their monthly meeting on December 22, 2016, becoming the 152nd central labor council to take this action.

The two USW locals together have more than 1,650 members.  USW Local 5652, an amalgamated local, represents workers in a variety of jobs including making shelving and heating cabinets for restaurants, manufacturing gears for airplanes, repairing utility trucks, and working at a correspondence school.

USW Local 15253 represents workers who do heavy highway construction from the Maryland border to the New York border and from the New Jersey border to the middle of Pennsylvania.

William Herbert, Treasurer of Local 5652 said “We’ve been getting ripped off by insurance companies.”  He told of the crises faced by even heart attack patients who are confronted with demands for up front payments as high as $1,700.  Herbert worked successfully to get his Congressperson, Matt Cartwright, to sign on to HR 676.

Herbert made the following statement on behalf of his local:

“USW Local 5652 passed a resolution calling on Congress to pass H.R. 676. For too long the insurance and pharmaceutical industries have been charging outrageous prices for their products. The bill would extend Medicare to everyone and eliminate co-pays and deductibles. We feel that this is the only way to insure health care for all Americans. If this bill passed, we would no longer need to negotiate for health care in our contracts. If an employee gets laid off his insurance would continue at the same level. We urge all Americans to call their Representatives in Congress and the Senate and ask them to pass H.R. 676.”

The HR 676 endorsement resolutions were signed by President Dave Brandt of Local 5652 and President Joseph M. Padavan of Local 15253.  Padavan is also president of the Greater Wilkes Barre Labor Council.

Issued by:
Kay Tillow, Coordinator

All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care–HR 676
c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO)
1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 636 1551

Workers and Community Protest Job and Benefit Cuts

Steelworkers protest loss of jobs, benefits

JACOB TIERNEY | Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, 12:06 a.m.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review














Members of United Steelworkers and community supporters gather for candlelight vigil outside the Akers

Union Electric Steel facility in Avonmore, PA in protest of the company’s plans to lay off dozens of workers

and cut healthcare for hundreds of retirees. Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2016


Steelworkers huddled beneath umbrellas, protecting lit candles from a steady downpour as they held a vigil to protest layoffs and benefit cuts at the Akers National Roll plant in Avonmore.

“It’s just very unfair. I’ve got 27 years down there, my dad had 45,” said machine operator Jimmy Stine, standing with more than 100 people in the field outside the plant.

Union Electric Steel Corp. announced in October it would temporarily shut down the plant, which makes cast steel rolls, as it restructures to cut costs.

The facility will be closed by April 21 if the situation continues as it is, but it is possible a deal could be struck with United Steelworkers to keep it open, according to Union Electric Steel spokeswoman Melanie Sprowson.

USW accused the company of using the looming closure to threaten the union into accepting dozens of job cuts.

“It helps nobody for the plant to be closed,” said Lou Bonnoni, president of United Steel Workers District 10, Local Union 1138.

Sprowson said the company could not comment on layoffs or employee benefits.

“It’s a private matter between the corporation and the union, and we’re hoping our talks with the union are going to continue,” she said.

Union Electric Steel, a subsidiary of Ampco-Pittsburgh, bought the plant from investment firm Altor Equity Partners in March.

It quickly started eliminating positions, according to Bonnoni.

The plant had 198 union workers at the start of 2016. It now has 160, and wants to cut most of those, he said.

“I don’t know how you can run a plant with only 50 people. It’s ludicrous, it doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said.

Sprowson said she could not discuss staffing numbers.

The company also cut health benefits for retired employees, Bonnoni said.

Bob Dobrosky worked as a heavy equipment operator at the plant for more than 24 years. When he retired in 2014, he expected he and his wife would remain fully covered under the company’s health care package until he was eligible for Medicare, the same as all retirees from the plant.

He found out in October that he would have to find his own health insurance, although Union Electric Steel would continue to contribute $500 a month for him and $200 a month for his wife.

“So many things in America happen this way, and it’s a shame,” Dobrosky said. “People work all their lives, and they just turn around and stick a knife in your back after it’s done.”

Bonnoni said USW is planning to file a lawsuit against Union Electric over the cuts to retiree health benefits, which the union contends is a violation of its labor agreement with the company.

“You’re talking about people who worked their whole life, and all of a sudden they had their health care ripped out from under them,” he said.

He said he hopes the candlelight vigil will be a show of community support that might convince Union Electric Steel to change its terms. He’s reached out to politicians at every level, including a letter to President-elect Donald Trump.

At the vigil, USW officials and plant employees urged Union Electric Steel to forestall its planned cuts.

Avonmore Mayor Paula Jones, a lifelong resident of the borough, cried as she recalled how much the plant has meant to the community.

Stine said he expects the plant will go idle, at least for a while.

“It’s going to hurt a lot of people. It’s going to hurt this town.”

Bonnoni said USW is willing to negotiate, but not to accept Union Electric Steel’s terms that include mass layoffs and cuts to retiree health insurance.

“We have no problem giving our shirt, but you’re not taking our pants too,” he said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at (724) 836-6646 or

West Virginia Voters Wanted Bernie

Daniel Sidorick

Daniel Sidorick teaches labor history at Rutgers University. His book, Condensed Capitalism: Campbell Soup and the Pursuit of Cheap Production in the Twentieth Century (Cornell University Press) was awarded the Richard P. McCormick Prize by the New Jersey Historical Commission.

View all posts by Daniel Sidorick »

The Guardian‘s West Coast bureau chief paid a quick visit to McDowell County, West Virginia in October to film a video for the news organization’s website titled “Why the poorest county in West Virginia has faith in Trump.” The video’s description promised it would explain why “Donald Trump was more popular in McDowell County—the poorest county of West Virginia—then anywhere else in America during the Republican primaries.” The video dutifully showed what the Guardian’s readers would expect: poor working-class whites in an economically devastated county, left behind by the winds of change and the global economy. The Trump phenomenon growing in its native soil. The video in fact did a great job of showing how working people have been abandoned when they can no longer contribute to the profits of corporate America. What it totally failed to show was that McDowell people were open to, even preferred, a real alternative to Trump and Clinton.

Trump’s alleged popularity was based on the presidential primary results, in which the Republican candidate won a total of 785 votes. Yes, 785 voters were enough to paint McDowell County as the poster child of regressive right-wing populism. Nowhere in the video or the accompanying webpage were the actual primary numbers presented, nor was it mentioned that Bernie Sanders won 1,488 votes in the same primaries—almost twice as many as Trump! Nor that in 2008 a large majority voted for Obama in the general election.

Why are the Democratic party elites so determined to disavow the party’s largest core constituency since the New Deal? Apparently because their strategists have concluded that basing their electoral strategy on identity politics will win them a large and ever-growing share of the American electorate, while a class-based approach, though it would directly address the needs and concerns of all working people—working-class whites and especially minorities and immigrants—would be an anachronistic dead end. Their media allies reinforced their comforting illusions with videos like this one that omit any mention of downtrodden working people’s openness to leftist alternatives. That McDowell’s residents cast far more ballots for a self-described socialist than all other candidates in the primaries should not be all that surprising in a county that took part in the Battle of Blair Mountain, the largest labor uprising in American history. Many of the comments to the video, however, as expected, denounced the poor white Neanderthals there for their obvious misogynist and fascist sympathies: “Ignorant foolish people”; “These are Clinton’s ‘deplorables.’”; “Now WV men can grope and rape at will”; “The nativist, racist and outright fascist language of Il Trumpolini and his promise the [sic] Make Them Great Again – based on their skin tone, unfortunately appeals to far to [sic] many there.” Would they still have made these comments if the Guardian had let them know twice as many McDowell residents voted for Bernie as for Trump?

Trump’s victory came from many segments of America, including some who embrace his proto-fascist rantings. But for millions of Americans who have been suffering due to the policies of both parties over the last few decades, many of their votes were a direct result of his promises, regardless of how bogus they are, to attack trade deals that hurt the working class, bring back jobs, and protect Social Security, along with his middle finger allegedly aimed at the elites and their establishment politics. The Democratic leaders made his job easy for him by derailing Sanders’ bid for the nomination and doubling down on their anti-working-class neoliberal agenda, aided inexplicably and shamefully by most of the top leadership of the unions.

Well, the media got what it wanted. On November 8, McDowell County, in the absence of a left alternative, voted 75% to 23% for Trump. For anyone who wants to build a movement to resist a Trumpian future, providing a real alternative politics to the millions who are suffering in our economy will be absolutely essential.

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