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The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO voted to endorse Sen. Arlen Specter in his nomination battle against Rep. Joe Sestak for the Democratic nomination for Senate.

Mr. Specter managed to pass the two-thirds threshold needed to gain the backing of the statewide labor group.  This is the third time Mr. Specter has received an AFL-CIO endorsement, but the first time as a Democrat.  The group was in his corner for his re-election bids in 1998 and 2004 as well.  Mr. Sestak greeted the news with another broadside at the Democratic establishment, and the claim that his voting record is superior to the incumbent's on labor issues

Mr. Specter has traveled a twisted road with his sometimes allies in labor over the last year.

  When he was still considering a run for re-election as a Republican, he tried to emphasize his independence by declaring his opposition to a legislative proposal, known to its detractors as card-check, which was designed to make it easier to organize workplaces.  That announcement drew sharp criticism from labor.

After his conversion to the Democratic Party, however, Mr. Specter emerged as a supporter of negotiations seeking a compromise version of the measure.  Statewide labor groups kept the pressure on Mr. Specter on card check and other issues.  In last year’s state convention of the AFL-CIO, senior labor leaders, made clear that his position on the bill would be crucial to their continuing support.  Last September, Mr. Specter predicted that a compromise bill would be enacted.

But with election f Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the Democrats lost their 60th vote in the Senate, a vote that Mr. Specter had supplied when he crossed the aisle.  With the loss of the filibuster-proof supermajority, the legislation that the national AFL-CIO had described as it chief legislative priority appeared dead for the foreseeable future.

In their endorsement yesterday, the AFL-CIO praised Mr. Specter on other issues, notably his vote as one of only three Republicans to support the economic stimulus bill advanced by the Obama administration.

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President William George today announced the endorsement of Democratic U.S. Senator Arlen Specter in the upcoming May 18th Primary Election. The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO is the largest labor organization in the state representing over 900,000 union members represented by unions affiliated with the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

Here’s the statement from Bill George, the statewide group’s president.

“In our opinion Senator Arlen Specter is the strongest advocate and supporter for good jobs, fair trade policies, workers’ rights and quality affordable health care for all. He is a proven leader who has stood with working families when the chips are down, especially his key role in passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment of 2009 which has protected jobs, helped unemployed workers, and prevented this nation from sinking into another great depression,” Pennsylvania

“Throughout his career in the U. S. Senate, he has stood with Pennsylvania’s working families fighting against unfair trade policies that destroy good jobs, fighting for workers’ rights and equal opportunity, and fighting to protect Pennsylvania communities and workers against unfair budget cuts during the Bush Administration.” 

The labor group also issued some Congressional endorsements, all to Democratic candidates, in contested races in the May 18 primary: 3rd Congressional District, Kathy Dahlkemper; 6th Congressional District Doug Pike; 7th Congressional District, Bryan Lentz; 11th Congressional District Paul E. Kanjorski.  In the 12th Congressional District, Jack Murtha's old seat, the labor group is supporting  Mark S, Critz, Mr. Murtha's former aide, in both the special and primary election.

Mr. Sestak, understandably, has a different view.  He greeted the news of the endorsment with a statement saying that he had a stronger labor voting record than the incumbent.

Joe understands that the Democratic establishment decided to pursue a 60th vote and officially support Arlen Specter despite his 61 percent lifetime voting record from the AFL-CIO. But as we get closer to real working families, our support grows, as we’ve seen from our strong backing by local union chapters. 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. Joe is proud of his 97 percent voting record with the AFL-CIO and will continue to fight to reverse the disastrous Bush-Specter economic policies that harmed so many hardworking Pennsylvanians.”


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