From the Right



A Public Labor Fight in Pittsburgh Lays Bare the Deep Fissures Within the Democratic Party

Salena Zito on

PITTSBURGH -- Last Monday, Philip Ameris, president of the Laborers' District Council of Pennsylvania, was standing on Grant Street watching the members of his union march down the main thoroughfare of the annual Pittsburgh Labor Day Parade, the day's largest such celebration anywhere in the country, when he said he saw Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey hop over the barriers and jump in to join his labor force.

"So the union members march behind a truck that has a banner with our name on it, Mayor Gainey jumping in right behind our guys gives the impression that we support him and he supports us, that is the perception," Ameris said in an interview.

"That is not, however, the reality, and I was having none of it," he said.

The labor president said he walked straight over to Gainey, shook his hand and both bluntly and colorfully told him to leave his position in the parade with his workers.

"I essentially said you can go walk with anyone else but not my members," he said, adding, "He has not taken my calls for over a year, this from a man who we have supported throughout his career both with votes and with a lot of money, and he had no right to try to present it as though everything was good between us."

Over 27,000 construction workers and public sector employees are represented by the Laborers' District Council, and they had all been strident supporters of Gainey until recently, after Gainey took a far left turn and put all his chips in with the social justice union Service Employees International Union (SEIU).


When Gainey took office, he appointed top SEIU officials such as Lisa Frank as his chief administrative officer and Maria Montano, the former SEIU Healthcare communications director, as his press secretary.

In March, Gainey nominated Silas Russell, the executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, to the Planning Commission, a move considered controversial because of the conflict of interests it raises and just one of many SEIU members who hold significant influence in his administration.

The SEIU has also successfully brought other far-left candidates to office here in Western Pennsylvania. Democratic U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-Penn., is one of them, and Sara Innamorato hopes to be the next in November's race for Allegheny County Chief Executive.

In a shock move, the Labor Council endorsed businessman Joe Rockey, a moderate Republican, over Innamorato in that upcoming contest; other union leaders, however, have had their arms bent not to support Rockey for fear of losing power.


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