Category Archives: elections

GOP State Lawmakers File Lawsuit to Have Mail-in Voting Tossed Out

By J D Prose

Beaver County Times

Sept 3, 2021 – Lawmakers argued in the suit filed late Tuesday in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court that Act 77, under which no-excuse mail-in voting was allowed, violates the state and U.S. constitutions and should have been pursued through a state constitutional amendment, even though 11 of them voted for the legislation in 2019.

The GOP legislators on the lawsuit are: 

  • Timothy Bonner, Mercer County, who was not in office when Act 77 passed. 
  • Mike Jones, York County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • David Zimmerman, Lancaster County, who voted against Act 77. 
  • Barry Jozwiak, Berks County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Kathy Rapp, Warren County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • David Maloney, Berks, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Barbara Gleim, Cumberland County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Bob Brooks, Westmoreland County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Aaron Bernstine, Lawrence County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Timothy Twardzik, Schuylkill County, who was not in office when Act 77 passed. 
  • Dawn Keefer, York County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Dan Moul, Adams County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Frank Ryan, Lebanon County, who voted for Act 77. 
  • Bud Cook, Washington County, who voted for Act 77. 

“Last year, over 2.5 million Pennsylvanians embraced mail-in voting and other safe secure and modern forms of voting which Act 77 allowed for the first time in the commonwealth,” said Lyndsay Kensinger, a spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. 

“The fact that members of the General Assembly who voted for Act 77 and were chosen for office in elections in which it was in effect are now suing to overturn it is hypocritical and a betrayal of voters,” Kensinger said. “We should continue to modernize our election system and make it more convenient for voters to make their voices heard. Instead these members are seeking to silence voters as they perpetuate false claims of a stolen election.”

However, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a likely Democratic candidate for governor in 2022, said Thursday on Twitter: “This lawsuit is not only the height of hypocrisy, but it also has real consequences and damages public trust in our elections.” 

After initially supporting mail-in voting, Republicans have followed former President Donald Trump’s calls against the practice and launched several legal attacks on the process, although none of them have been successful.  

Trump began baselessly warning about mail-in voting fraud last year before the November election when it became clear that Democrats were flocking to mailed ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  

More:Wolf, Democrats say Pa. already had election audits — and Biden won

More:A bill overhauling Pa.’s election law could soon pass the House. What’s the fight over?

GOP election probe 

As Trump’s evidence-free claims continue, Republican lawmakers have repeatedly called into question the results of the presidential election, but not the races that they won. 

On Thursday, the state Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee announced that it has created a webpage for Pennsylvania voters to submit sworn testimony about their voting experiences and any irregularities they have witnessed.  

The effort is part of what committee Chairman Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson County, called an election integrity investigation. Testimony can be submitted at https://intergovernmental.pasenategop.com/electioninvestigation/.

Dush recently replaced state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin County, as committee chairman after Mastriano was removed amid bickering with Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman over the committee’s efforts to subpoena records from York, Tioga and Philadelphia counties.

Mastriano has been at the forefront of the movement questioning the 2020 election results and was part of a Republican group that visited Arizona to review the GOP-led election audit there.  

Dush also said that the committee will hold public hearings and request documents from counties and the Pennsylvania Department of State “to conduct a comprehensive election investigation – including potentially using the committee’s subpoena powers,” according to a statement. 

Forget Pennsyltucky! Welcome to PArizona!

IF WE LET MASTRIANO GET HIS WAY

Mastriano at Jan 6 Attack on Congress

By Tony Norman

Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Opinion Columnist

July 16, 2021 – Somewhere in the multiverse of possibilities, there probably exists a place where state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Franklin) isn’t the Lex Luthor of Pennsylvania politics. Alas, that place isn’t here.

In this universe, Mr. Mastriano, who is expected to run for governor next year, is second to none in a party that has made fealty to Donald Trump and his cult of eternal grievance over a “stolen” election part of its brand.

Unlike most of his rivals who will also be vying for Mr. Trump’s blessings going into the primary next year, Mr. Mastriano isn’t just another dim bulb cursed with more ambition than imagination. That’s not to say he towers over his fellow Republicans intellectually, but he does possess a Trumpian canniness and disregard for reality that most don’t.

As Mr. Trump’s biggest hype man in this state, Mr. Mastriano has proven that by echoing and amplifying the ex-president’s Big Lie, he displays the shamelessness that all but guarantees he’ll be the gubernatorial choice for a party that signed away its conscience a long time ago. The Associated PressAnother county raises objection to Sen. Doug Mastriano’s Pennsylvania election audit

To be an elected Republican official in Pennsylvania these days requires a declaration that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Mr. Trump and that massive election fraud took place in this state on Nov. 3, most likely in the form of mail-in ballots.

Though Republicans maintained their majority in the Legislature despite Biden winning the state, many of those who won reelection or took office for the first time are willing to cast doubt on the integrity of their own victories to bolster the wounded ego of ‘Dear Leader’ who, at a minimum, always demands a mindless parroting of the Big Lie that the entire election was illegitimate.

Mr. Mastriano’s history of enabling the former president’s paranoia and fear-mongering is particularly notorious for its indifference to reality ranging from criticism of the state’s COVID-19 mask and lockdown mandates at the height of the pandemic to the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6.

On Nov. 27, Mr. Mastriano was one of the architects of a resolution that would permit the Legislature to appoint a new slate of delegates to the Electoral College that would be pledged to support Mr. Trump instead of President-elect Joe Biden. (Continued)

Continue reading Forget Pennsyltucky! Welcome to PArizona!

EVEN CONOR LAMB IS DONE WITH THE FILIBUSTER

The moderate Democrat says the Capitol riot changed his mind. Who’s next?

BY MARY HARRISJUNE 10, 20211:12 PM

SLATE.COM

Lamb stands with his head bowed and hands clasped in front of him. One uniformed officer stands in front of him and one behind him.
Rep. Conor Lamb pays his respects to Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 3. Demetrius Freeman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Some people call Democratic Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb a conservative. He prefers to think of himself as a compromiser, a moderate in a polarized political world. Because he was first elected as a Democrat in a district that also elected Donald Trump, he’s often seen as a bellwether, an object lesson in reaching the voters Democrats have lost ground with over the last few years. So it surprised me that Lamb recently got on Twitter to voice his support for blowing up the filibuster. After watching the bipartisan push for a Jan. 6 commission fail spectacularly, Lamb says he felt like he had no choice—“the filibuster has to go.” On Thursday’s episode of What Next, I spoke to Lamb about why he’s taking this stand now, and what compromise means when there are fewer and fewer people to compromise with. This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Mary Harris: Right now the project of democracy is being politicized. Reforms that will increase the democratic project are seen as progressive or left-wing. But you’re trying to separate that out from your stances on issues like the environment or the economy. Are your constituents separating them out too? When you talk to them about the democratic values that you clearly hold, do they see those as apolitical values?

Conor Lamb: I think it’s still a little early in this process. I’ve noticed Washington, D.C., always moves a lot faster in conversation than people back here in my district, and so I am now every day on high alert for what’s happening to our democracy and what’s happening in these different states, and I’m not sure that the average person in my district is yet, particularly because you’re in Pennsylvania. We more or less are at a stalemate because we have a Democratic governor who’s not going to allow the legislature to do all these crazy things they’re doing elsewhere.

Even though the legislature is Republican-controlled.

Yes. And they have tried. We just had a bunch of state legislators travel to Arizona to watch the phony recount. But I can say with a lot of confidence, having got to know my constituents over the last three years, that they would expect me to continue working for achievements and compromises on issues like infrastructure, even as we debate the fundamental issues of our democracy. And that actually makes sense to me

In infrastructure, just to give you a quick example, there’s a lock on the Ohio River that makes it possible for barges to carry construction equipment and coal and all the things that they move on the river. It’s so old that it’s literally at a 50 percent chance of cracking in half and falling into the river in the next two years. And if that happened, not only the whole river would be shut down, but construction sites along the river would be shut down. People would lose their job. Traffic on the roads would increase. I mean, that’s a real scenario. If that happened, I don’t think anyone in my district is going to look at me and go, “Well, yeah, Conor, that’s not your fault because you were fighting with the Republicans about democracy.” I mean, there’s some basic stuff that we really have to try to get done for our people no matter what.

So you’re trying to make the case to your constituents that we need to be able to get these things passed because otherwise your stuff is going to break, and then it’s too late for us to fix it.ADVERTISEMENT

I would actually reverse it. I think that’s the case my constituents make to me on a pretty regular basis. And I agree with them. I think that we have to be able to do multiple things at once. But I’ll also say that my view on the filibuster, on the commitment to democracy that we have to have and the intensity with which we have to have that debate—that has evolved in three years. So I’m learning on the job and I’m trying to achieve this balance right now of working with the Republicans. And when I say the Republicans, really I’m mostly working with Republicans who did not vote to overturn the election. Many of the ones I’m working with voted to impeach Trump the second time.

Can you tell me about that evolution? You’ve said, “I practice bipartisanship because it’s supposed to get results.” But I think a lot of people would say it hasn’t been getting results for a while.

I always challenge people to make sure we know what we’re talking about when we say we’re not getting results, because we actually have, even in the depth of the Trump era, we’ve gotten bipartisan results on important topics. The same week that we did impeachment in the House the first time, we did the USMCA [United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement], probably the most important trade agreement in the United States in the last almost 30 years, by a massive bipartisan vote. And there have been other examples like that. So it still does happen, even though people correctly perceive that we’re in much more partisan times.

“If we can’t agree to have a peaceful transition of power, the rest of it doesn’t really matter.”— Rep. Conor Lamb

But I think the last three years have taught me that the Republicans have really made this whole attack on the ease of voting, and more generally an attack on telling the truth and meaning what you say and basing your statements on facts and true observations about the world—they’ve really made it a core pillar of their party because they have tied themselves so tightly to Trump. I don’t think every Republican walking around thinks that way, but they have all made the decision basically that he’s the head of their party, and so now all that really matters is what he wants or what pleases him. And Jan. 6 really revealed just how dangerous and sinister of a development that that is. …CONTINUED

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Criminal Justice Reforms, Progressive Victories, and Other Takeaways From a Historic 2021 Pittsburgh Primary Election

Peduto, left, defeated by Gainey.

By Ryan Deto
Pittsburgh City Paper

History was made on May 18, 2021. Ed Gainey secured the Democratic nomination for Pittsburgh mayor, almost certain to become the city’s firstever Black mayor. He ran on progressive policies, and to the left of incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto on policing. He focused his campaign on racial and economic inequalities, promising to do more to address these glaring issues in the Steel City.

While this moment is truly historic for Pittsburgh — a city and region that are overwhelmingly white, and have many documented instances of racism against Black people — there are also several other impressive electoral wins that deserve recognition.

Criminal justice reforms

Pittsburgh voters overwhelmingly passed a ban on no-knock warrants for Pittsburgh Police officers. “Yes” on the ban secured more than 81% of the vote. This initiative was inspired by Breonna Taylor, who was shot five times and killed by police officers after police entered her apartment on a noknock warrant.

Allegheny County voters also approved a ballot initiative that would limit the use of solitary confinement at the Allegheny County Jail. A “yes” on that question received 69% of the vote.

Additionally, out of nine open seats for Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, voters selected five candidates who were endorsed by a coalition of criminaljustice reform groups. Common Pleas Judges are responsible for overseeing trials for criminal, civil, and family cases and delivering sentencing.

The coalition said back in March that electing these candidates would help move reforms like reducing the use of cash bail, increasing diversionary programs and alternatives to carceral punishment, and other mechanisms to combat mass incarceration and racial and other demographic disparities in the system.

There were also victories at the Magisterial District Judge level. The Magisterial District Judge court is directly below Common Pleas and is responsible for assigning bail conditions, deciding eviction cases, and is a defendant’s first introduction to the state’s criminal judicial system. In Lawrenceville, candidate Xander Orenstein narrowly defeated incumbent Anthony Ceoffe on a platform of being more compassionate in eviction cases and limiting cash bail. Orenstein, if they were to win the general election, would become the state’s first nonbinary magistrate judge.

Jehosha Wright also won his race for Magisterial District Judge in the North Side, after receiving the backing of some criminal justice reformminded politicians.

Progressive victories over incumbents

On top of celebrating Gainey’s victory, which many progressive advocates are boosting, there were a series of other wins in smaller races that portend more momentum for progressives in Pittsburgh.

In Mount Oliver, JoAnna Taylor ousted Mount Oliver Mayor Frank Bernardini, a conservative Democratic incumbent who was seen last year with Democratic Mount Oliver council member Nick Viglione, who was sporting a MAGA hat at a Allegheny County Democratic Committee meeting. State Rep. Jessica Benham (DSouth Side) also congratulated Lisa Pietrusza for winning a spot on Mount Oliver Council, and Jamie Piotrowski for winning her election for Pittsburgh Public Schools board member.

“I am so thrilled about the progressive movement we are building in South Pittsburgh JoAnna, Jamie, & Lisa represent the hard organizing work we are doing in areas that don’t get much progressive political attention,” tweeted Benham on May 19.

Continue reading Criminal Justice Reforms, Progressive Victories, and Other Takeaways From a Historic 2021 Pittsburgh Primary Election

U.S. Steel Cancels $1 Billion Upgrades to Local Facilities; Plans to Close High Emissions Batteries at Clairton Coke Works

Clairton Coke Works

By Kimberly Rooney
Pittsburgh City Paper

April 30, 2021 – U.S. Steel Corporation is cancelling its $1 billion upgrades to its Mon Valley Works facilities, which includes Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock, Irvin Plant in West Mifflin, and the Clairton Coke Works in Clairton. While the cancellation will likely result in some job losses in the region, it will also reduce the levels of harmful air pollution in the Mon Valley and beyond.

The upgrades, which were announced May 2019, would have included a casting and rolling facility and a cogeneration plant. After several delays due to COVID in 2020 that increased the upgrade costs to a promised $1.5 billion, U.S. Steel pushed the start date of those upgrades to the fourth quarter of 2022. But today, the company announced it would be scrapping those plans entirely.

In addition to cancelling these updates, U.S. Steel plans to permanently idle batteries one through three at Clairton Coke Works by the first quarter of 2023. Batteries one through three are the oldest at the Coke Works and can allow twotothree times more emissions than the rest of the facility, according to environmental groups.

According to the EPA’s National Air Toxics Assessment, toxic air pollution contributes to high risk of cancer, and Clairton Coke Works is responsible for many of the airborne carcinogens in the region. Asthma rates among children in Clairton are three times higher than in the rest of the county.

“For too long, U.S. Steel has run roughshod over our environmental protections and churned out dangerous levels of harmful air pollution,” says PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center clean air advocate Zachary Barber. “Closing these batteries is a necessary and longoverdue step toward reducing that damage and cleaning our region’s air.”

Clairton Coke Works received a $1 million fine from the Allegheny County Health Department in 2019, as well as another $383,450 fine in March 2021. A study from the University of Pittsburgh also confirmed this week that the fire at the Coke Works in December 2018, which destroyed pollution controls, increased asthma exacerbations for residents in the surrounding area.

U.S. Steel President and CEO David Burritt cites the goal for the company to become carbon neutral by 2050 as a motivation for canceling the plan upgrades. As part of that goal, U.S. Steel will shift toward electric arc furnaces, such as Big River Steel, of which U.S. Steel bought a minority share in 2019, in Arkansas.

There are currently about 130 fulltime workers at the three Clairton Coke Works batteries that will be idled. U.S. Steel plans to avoid layoffs by reducing the workforce through retirements and reassignments. According to Pittsburgh Works Together, a cooperative venture mostly comprised of fossilfuel companies and the labor unions that represent their workers, the closures will result in the loss of hundreds of potential construction jobs for the region.

“I am deeply disappointed that the company has broken its promise to the Mon Valley and its own workers by scrapping a plan that would have made the Mon Valley Works the first project of its kind, provided cleaner air for our community and good jobs that would have helped this area prosper for decades,” says state Rep. Austin Davis (DMckeesport), whose district includes the Clairton Coke Works. “I believe that we can create familysustaining jobs and a clean environment.”

From March 30 to April 7, the Mon Valley was one of the top10 worst places for air quality in America. Advocates such as Barber have long criticized Clairton Coke Works’ dangerous emissions, and PennEnvironment had previously called for the batteries to be taken offline when air quality was poor.

“While we are pleased by this development, we still must remain vigilant — especially in light of U.S. Steel’s decadeslong history of legal violations and broken promises,” Barber says. “Local leaders must keep working to ratchet down industrial pollution to ensure that everyone has clean air to breathe every day of the year.”

And it’s possible these upgrade cancellations will have longterm effects on U.S. Steel’s future in the Mon Valley and the Pittsburgh region. As University of Pittsburgh economist Chris Briem notes on Twitter, the status of the Clairton Coke Works and the Edgar Thompson Works is bleak without any upgrades to those legacy facilities.

Aliquippa Secures Funding To Replace Lead Service Lines

Aliquippa workers repairing old water lines

By Chrissy Suttles
Beaver County Times

The Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa will receive more than $2 million in state grant funding to replace the city’s lead service lines.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday announced $117 million had been released for 25 drinking water, wastewater and nonpoint source projects statewide through Pennsylvania’s Infrastructure Investment Authority.

The only Beaver County project to receive funding was Aliquippa, which will replace 184 existing lead water service lines with copper lines – eliminating the threat of corroded lines seeping lead into the water supply.

Following months of customer complaints, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection ordered the authority to improve its testing for drinking water contaminants.

New testing last summer revealed elevated levels of lead in a handful of homes with old lead pipes. Those pipes were immediately replaced, but at least one homeowner reported elevated lead levels months after the replacement.

“People should not have to worry over the safety of their tap water,” said state Rep. Rob Matzie, D16, Ambridge. After testing last year showed elevated lead levels in a small number of samples, there was reason for concern. Securing this funding is going to eliminate that risk.”

Aliquippa’s water authority broke ground on a new $15 million water filtration plant earlier this year near its existing, decadesold facility. For years, hundreds of residents have protested the brown drinking water regularly streaming from their faucets alongside ongoing rate hikes.

The Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa’s former administrative building was partly demolished Thursday at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $15 million water filtration plant, expected to be completed within the next three years.
Many of the system’s lines are old castiron pipes first laid in the early 1900s when J&L Steel Corp. was building the town. They break often, resulting in “muddy” water.

“This historic investment in Pennsylvania’s clean water and healthy communities serves as a fitting celebration of Earth Week, when our country celebrates advances in environmental protection and committed stewardship of our lands and waters,” Wolf said.

Chrissy Suttles covers business, energy and environment for the Beaver County Times and the USAToday Network. Contact her at csuttles@timesonline.com and follow her on Twitter @ChrissySuttles.


Aliquippa water workers repairing old lines, some of which is lead and need replacing

Biden’s Pittsburgh Visit Shows the Path to Shared Prosperity in the Ohio River Valley

By Erika Strassburger
Re-Imagine Appalachia
via Pittsburgh Post Gazette

April 12, 2021 – On March 31, President Joe Biden came to the Pittsburgh metro region to announce the American Jobs Plan. As he put it, he was here to “lay out how we rebuild the backbone of America.”

It was only appropriate that he unveiled his plan to rebuild America here, the center of a region with a rich industrial legacy, but where decaying infrastructure, a shortage of middle-class jobs, and racial inequity underscore the need to build back better.

Our region is known for resiliency and getting up when knocked down. We produced nearly half of the nation’s steel as late as the mid-1950s. But our economy was left in tatters when the domestic steel industry collapsed in the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands of workers saw their incomes drop by a fifth, a third, sometimes half. The wages of white, non-college educated men plunged. The wages of Black men plummeted even more, undercut by the tradition of “last in, first out” in the mills.

The riverfront steel mills of the Mon Valley are mostly gone now. We’ve also seen Pennsylvania’s southwest corner and West Virginia neighbors struggle with the boom and bust cycle of the coal industry.

So how do we build back better — and achieve a strong, diversified economy with good wages?

Mr. Biden is thinking big. Just one among many of the goals laid out in his speech was a commitment that “the American Jobs Plan will put plumbers and pipefitters to work replacing all lead pipes and service lines to save our children’s health and clean drinking water.” As a member of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority Board, this is a promise that will benefit not only our children today, but every future generation.

One inspiring, big vision for infrastructure spending comes from ReImagine Appalachia, a broad coalition of groups deeply rooted in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. ReImagine Appalachia has understood and seized on the significance of a politically powerful new reality: The aggressive investments our nation must make in infrastructure, including to avoid catastrophic climate change, will create a massive number of trades and industrial jobs.

An economic study commissioned by ReImagine Appalachia shows that its policy blueprint, if implemented, would create 243,000 jobs in Pennsylvania alone. This plan would deliver the economic opportunities the working people of our region hunger for, and lay the foundation for sustainable growth that builds local wealth rather than filling the pockets of absentee corporations.

ReImagine Appalachia’s transformational infrastructure investment plan includes clean energy such as the rapidly expanding solar and wind industries. It also includes a whole lot more, such as broadband expansion, electric cars and buses, and clean manufacturing to supply “buy local” materials and products. (Continued)

Continue reading Biden’s Pittsburgh Visit Shows the Path to Shared Prosperity in the Ohio River Valley

Book Review: A Rust Belt City’s New Working Class

A worker entering the U.S. Steel Clairton Works in Clairton, Pennsylvania DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

Heavy industry once drove Pittsburgh’s economy. Now health care does—but without the same hard-won benefits.

The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America
by Gabriel Winant
Harvard University Press, 368 pp., $35.00

Reviewed by Scott W Stern

The New Republic

March 31, 2021 – To grow up in Pittsburgh in the 1990s and 2000s—as I did—was to experience something paradoxical: slow-motion whiplash. In my early childhood, everyone seemed to agree that the city was dying around us—another victim of deindustrialization and globalization and a general brain drain, the factories gone forever and talented young people fleeing for greener pastures. A city that had once provided the steel to win world wars and been home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other except New York and Chicago had, by the early 1990s, lost almost half its people (down from a peak in about 1950) and nearly all of the industry that had employed generations and made the resplendently bearded robber barons—like Carnegie, Frick, Heinz, Mellon, and Westinghouse, whose names adorn virtually all of the city’s institutions—so damn rich. Pittsburgh exemplified “Rust Belt decline.”

Yet by the time I was finishing high school, Pittsburgh was back. Everyone said so. Former mills and shuttered factories converted into upscale shopping centers; biotech companies, startups, and cool new restaurants dotted the cityscape; affluent hipsters were moving back from those greener pastures. Soon companies like Google, Facebook, and Uber would arrive, drawn by the city’s top-notch universities (and relatively cheap cost of living). Pittsburgh had “transformed itself into a vibrant cultural and artistic hub, all while remaining true to its Rust Belt roots,” pronounced The New York Times. And at the heart of this transformation was “the relentless growth of healthcare jobs,” added the Los Angeles Times, with the health care sector replacing “manufacturing as the region’s powerhouse.”

Yet, as many have pointed out, this narrative of decline and resurgence—all on a foundation of health care jobs, all in the brief span of my childhood—masked darker truths. The city itself hadn’t really been dominated by manufacturing since the late nineteenth century, the scholar Patrick Vitale noted in an excellent article titled “The Pittsburgh Fairy Tale.” Instead, its corporations had extracted wealth from the true midcentury mill towns, which existed in Pittsburgh’s outskirts—communities like Aliquippa, Braddock, Clairton, McKeesport, McKees Rocks. It is these communities that are still largely desolated by deindustrialization, with many abandoned storefronts, crumbling homes, and widespread poverty and addiction. The story of Pittsburgh’s renaissance has been constructed on the erasure of its exploited environs. Further, as the University of Pittsburgh law professor Jerry Dickinson recently wrote, Pittsburgh “remains one of the most racially segregated cities by neighborhood in America,” with profound disparities in income and medical outcomes (especially for Black women).

It is this complicated, contested transformation that forms the backdrop for Gabriel Winant’s trenchant new book, The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America. Winant—a prolific essayist and historian at the University of Chicago—has delved deep into the region’s archives and made excellent use of oral history collections and original interviews to describe the transformation of the working class in places like Pittsburgh and its outlying communities. At the start of the 1950s, few people in the region worked in health care, while nearly 20 percent of jobs were in the metals industry, especially steel; today, few people in or around Pittsburgh work in steel or other industrial jobs, but health care jobs account for nearly 20 percent of the area’s workforce.

“It was not a coincidence that care labor grew as industrial employment declined,” Winant writes. “The processes were interwoven.” The industrial jobs wrought havoc on workers’ bodies, prematurely stooping them or poisoning them over time; the decline of these jobs wrought further havoc on the workers’ mental health. As steel jobs fell, health care jobs rose, with more and more workers needed to care for the aging, suffering former industrial laborers, especially as neoliberalism dismantled community institutions and punctured the social safety net. Yet while the steel jobs had been unionized and often provided enough to support an entire family, the health care jobs are largely low-wage and excluded from numerous labor protections. It is also no coincidence that while the industrial jobs of yesteryear were the province of men (largely, though certainly not exclusively, white men), the care jobs of today belong disproportionately to women, especially to women of color. To many, these care workers are “invisible, or disposable,” Winant writes, but they are the vanguard of the new working class.

The city of Pittsburgh sits at the confluence of three rivers, in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains, at the heart of northern Appalachia. It is a critical port on the Mississippi River system, a vital meeting place for rail and for steam, once the artery connecting the big cities of the Atlantic coast with the resource-rich Midwest. By the late nineteenth century, the city’s status as a commercial hub and its proximity to the iron ore mined near Lake Superior and the coalfields of Appalachia gave rise to the biggest steel operations in the world, which generated extraordinary wealth and attracted waves of migrants.

Few jobs have been as fetishized, as mythologized, and as misunderstood as that of the steelworker. It’s certainly true that the steel mills of western Pennsylvania provided steady, relatively stable employment for generations throughout the twentieth century. By the 1940s, these jobs were heavily unionized. Years of strikes and solidarity led to average hourly wages of $3.36 by the early 1960s (equivalent to $28.53 in 2020 dollars). But these jobs were also brutal and dirty and dangerous. They slowly wrecked men’s bodies, and often injured them much more quickly. In one mill in McKeesport, Winant notes, 500 injuries were routinely reported per month in a facility with just over 4,000 employees. Coke ovens, blast furnaces, and open hearths exuded a punishing heat, with some workers inhaling so much burning dust that they vomited blood. “Working-class men did not only love and draw strength from this work,” Winant writes. “They also dreaded spending their lives doing it, imagining all that it would require of them and all that it would do to them.”

The hell of steelwork was distributed unevenly across racial and ethnic lines, with Black workers being subjected “to the damage and humiliation of the job in greater concentration, more minutes per hour, more hours per day,” Winant writes. They were disproportionately shunted into “unskilled” positions and excluded almost entirely from the skilled trades. They were often forced to live “at the bottom of the valleys, where air pollution collected around smokestacks.” …Read More

PA Republicans Are Waging a War on Voting.

A voter drops off their mail-in ballot prior to the primary election, in Willow Grove, Montgomery County, May 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The For the People Act Could Be the Solution. As the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature works to pass voter suppression laws, Democrats in Congress have one chance to stop the assault on voting rights.

By Keya Vakil
The Keystone

MARCH 23, 2021 – WASHINGTON — Earlier this month, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law, sending $1,400 stimulus checks to most Pennsylvanians, extending federal unemployment benefits, providing most parents a guaranteed monthly income, giving schools money to reopen, and bolstering vaccine production and distribution.

The passage of the bill, which was backed by 59% of Pennsylvanians, according to a recent poll, was only possible because Pennsylvania residents voted in record numbers in November to send Biden to the White House.

Now, Republicans in the state Legislature are responding to Biden’s victory by introducing a flurry of bills that would make it more difficult to vote.

To stop the GOP’s war on voting rights, Democrats at the national level have one arrow left in their quiver: the For The People Act (HR 1).

Passed by the US House on March 3, HR 1 would allow automatic voter registration, set unified early and mail-in voting standards, enact campaign finance reform, and modernize elections while ensuring their security.

The bill is also all but certain to stall out in the Senate.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has made clear he opposes the comprehensive democracy reform bill. If Democrats choose to eliminate the filibuster—a Senate procedure that allows any one senator to obstruct a bill from being voted on and requires 60 senators to override—they could pass the For the People Act with their 50-vote majority and halt the voter suppression efforts in Pennsylvania.

Republican lawmakers in states across the country have introduced more than 250 bills to disenfranchise voters, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. Pennsylvania is among the states leading the way in these efforts, as legislators have proposed more than a dozen bills designed to restrict voting access.

The battles over the For the People Act and the filibuster will play out in the coming weeks and months. As Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania and other states have made clear, there is a lot at stake.

‘Divorced From Reality’

Even though former President Donald Trump lost Pennsylvania, 2020 was, by all accounts, a good year for the state GOP. They gained seats in the legislature, won two of three statewide races, and held onto all nine of their congressional seats.

Continue reading PA Republicans Are Waging a War on Voting.

Fetterman Officially Enters 2022 U.S. Senate Race, Vying for a Hotly Contested Seat. Why He’s Running

By Candy Woodall
Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau
via Beaver County Times

Feb 8, 2021 – Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on Monday officially entered the 2022 U.S. Senate race, vying for a hotly contested seat that could determine the chamber’s balance of power in the midterms.

The formal bid comes after Fetterman raised more than a $1 million in less than a month after he said he was eyeing a run.

“Thank you to all 35,000 of the folks who chipped in a few dollars and encouraged me to run for Senate, today I am excited to announce that I am running, and I am glad to have the support of people in all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties,” Fetterman, 51, said in a statement Monday.

He is running for a seat that will be left vacant by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, RLehigh Valley, who is retiring upon a selfimposed term limit.

Analysts say it’s the top U.S. Senate race to watch in the 2022 midterms.

“The sole tossup Senate race to start the 2022 cycle is Pennsylvania,” said J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the nonpartisan newsletter at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

The U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania is expected to be one of the most expensive in the country and could eclipse the $164 million spent in 2016 when Toomey was challenged by Democrat Katie McGinty.

McGinty defeated Fetterman in the 2016 Democratic primary.

A rising profile for Fetterman

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman went on a tour of all 67 Pennsylvania counties to get feedback from residents on recreational marijuana legalization. He is in favor of legalizing the drug.

At the time, he was mostly known in western Pennsylvania, where he was the mayor of Braddock, an old, bluecollar industrial town Fetterman was working to rehabilitate.

Since then, Fetterman has become better known to voters statewide after running a successful campaign to become Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor in 2018. He was also a frequent guest on national news programs during the pandemic and 2020 presidential election, and he has built a robust social media following.

Continue reading Fetterman Officially Enters 2022 U.S. Senate Race, Vying for a Hotly Contested Seat. Why He’s Running