Pittsburgh PA. – On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden intends to launch his presidential campaign at the Teamsters Local 249 in Pittsburgh with United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard appearing alongside him.
However, first, on Thursday, Biden is hosting a $2,800 dollar-a-plate fundraiser at the mansion of Comcast Executive President David Cohen in Philadelphia. Among the dozen select political power players on the host committee for Biden’s 1st fundraiser are Steven Cozen, founder and chairman of the union-busting law firm Cozen O’Connor.
According to Cozen O’Connor website, the firm specializes in union busting, advertising that it helps employers to “avoid unionization through positive employee relations and regain nonunion status when employees indicate they no longer wish to be union-represented”.
The firm also boasts on its website that it helps employers to lock out their unionized workforce.
The inclusion of Cozen on Biden’s first fundraiser raises lingering questions about Biden’s continued commitment to organized labor and why so many labor leaders are eager to hop on board with Biden.
On Monday, Biden is slated to announce his bid for election as President at the Teamsters Local 249 in order to emphasize Biden’s understanding of white working-class Americans in Trump Country like Western PA.
Congressman Conor Lamb, who Biden campaign extensively during his upset 2018 special election victory in a district that went for Trump by 14 points, is expected to endorse Biden at the rally; emphasizing Biden’s understanding of white working-class voters and win elections in places like Western Pennsylvania.
(Coincidentally, Conor Lamb’s wife Haldeman was forced to resign from Jones Day following a Payday Report expose in January on her work at the firm).
Despite the fact that Steelworkers Union has not formally endorsed as legally required under the union’s constitution, United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard told POLITICO that his members would show up on Monday “wearing USW gear” to give Biden a picturesque Steelworkers photo up for his Presidential announcement.
Although Biden as Vice President pushed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which the Steelworkers opposed, Gerard said that his union member would be excited to back Biden.
“Clearly many of us in the labor movement and in our union are friends with Vice President Biden. He’s been a true supporter of working people and their agenda. He’s someone who we’ve worked with a lot and we all admire tremendously,” Gerard told POLITICO. “I can say that it would be an understatement to say that our members admire and look forward to working with Vice President Biden”.
In recent years, the Steelworkers have garnered a reputation as being one of the more conservative unions in the labor movement.
The Steelworkers came out against the Green New Deal and have taken the side of US Steel as they appeal Clean Air Enforcement actions. In January, a mob of over 200 Steelworkers heckled African American PA. State Representative Summer Lee at a hearing on the air quality crisis plaguing Pittsburgh.
American Federation of Teachers leader Randi Weingarten and other labor leaders of public sector labor unions, which tend to be more female lead and racially diverse, have signaled that they intend to stay on the sidelines in the 2020 Presidential election.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has also signaled that he intends to stay neutral in the 2020 Presidental Primary as well.
However, many of the labor leaders of the more white-male lead construction and manufacturing unions like Gerard have decided to get behind Biden.
Given the scandals over Biden’s inappropriate touching of women and treatment of Anita Hill, Biden will likely have a tough time galvanizing female union members, who have driven many of the labor movement biggest gains in the last decade.
Biden will also face a tough time galvanizing African-American voters due to his role in working with Strom Thurmond to pass tough sentencing laws and Biden’s opposition to busing. By 2030, a majority of the labor movement’s membership is expected to be composed of people of color.
The support of many of the more conservative labor leaders for Biden will likely only deepen divisions over issues of race and gender within the labor movement.
For many in the rank and file of the increasingly diverse labor movement, the decision of so many old white male labor leaders to hop on Biden, an inconsistent an ally of organized labor, is head-scratching.
“The people who run American labor are often stupid. This is obvious” wrote African American Pittsburgh-area union activist Phillip Shropshire on Facebook.