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PA Unions Make Game Plans For Upcoming Elections

Keith Srakocic
AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka speaks to a crowd before the Labor Day Parade in Pittsburgh on Sept. 7, 2015.

Democrat Conor Lamb’s victory over Republican Rick Saccone in last month’s special congressional election was seen as a positive sign for Democrats.

But it’s also a sign that in many working-class pockets of Pennsylvania, unions still hold considerable sway.

Rick Bloomingdale, president of Pennsylvania’s chapter of the AFL-CIO, said the group is working with local unions to focus on a handful of races heading into this year’s midterm elections.

Lamb’s new race for the 17th Congressional District under the redrawn map is at the top of the pile.

Bloomingdale also named the new 5th,  6th and 7th districts.

On the old congressional map, they’re held by retiring Republicans Pat Meehan, Ryan Costello and Charlie Dent.

With about 81,000 members, Lamb’s new district doesn’t have as strong a union presence as the one he just won. And Bloomingdale said the Meehan and Dent districts each have about 80,000 and 60,000 members, respectively.

Most of the work, he said, will begin after the May primary. But he added, congressional races aren’t the only ones on the agenda.

“More and more, I think national unions and the national AFL-CIO are realizing that you can’t just focus on Congress—you have to focus on state House, state Senate, county commissioners, all those things that we didn’t always have the resources for,” he said.

Bloomingdale noted, unions in the commonwealth don’t hold the influence over elections they once did.

“We’re not as big as we used to be,” he said, referencing the amount of money Pennsylvania can expect from large, national unions during the election. “California, New York will have big plays.”

“But,” he added, “I suspect we’ll be in the top four or five.”