Pro union Specter wins state AFL-CIO backing

March 31, 2010 06:05

Expect millions in union support for Specter and billions of taxpayer funds for union payback if he is elected.

By Thomas Fitzgerald –

Sen. Arlen Specter won the backing of the state’s largest labor organization yesterday, with the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO endorsing him over Rep. Joe Sestak in the May Democratic primary.

It was a powerful affirmation of how smoothly Specter has managed his political transition to the Democratic Party since leaving the Republican Party less than a year ago.

“He is a proven leader who has stood with working families when the chips are down,” said Bill George, president of the state AFL-CIO, which represents 900,000 workers. George cited Specter’s crucial role last year in passing the $787 billion federal stimulus measure, which he said “prevented this nation from sinking into another Great Depression.”

Specter was one of only three Republicans to support the legislation, and his vote forced him to abandon the GOP when the party base rebelled. After former Rep. Pat Toomey announced a primary challenge, Specter became a Democrat, saying he could not win renomination as a Republican.

Sestak noted yesterday that he has a 100 percent rating from the national AFL-CIO for his voting record during two terms in Congress, while Specter’s career rating is 61 percent. He attacked Specter for voting for the economic policies of President George W. Bush while a Republican senator.

“Pennsylvania workers need a senator they can count on to be there when they need him, not only when he needs them during an election,” Sestak said.

Several union locals have backed Sestak, including the politically active United Food and Commercial Workers, but Specter has racked up all of the major labor endorsements – including the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents 200,000 teachers.

Labor is an important source of cash and muscle in Democratic politics. Specter also has received the endorsement of the Democratic State Committee and hundreds of rank-and-file Democratic officeholders and activists – not to mention the White House and Gov. Rendell.


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