Teamsters and other labor allies in western Pennsylvania worked long hours in the days leading up to a special U.S. House election this week letting union members in the district know there was only one candidate who would stand up for their families. And the effort paid off.
Conor Lamb (D), an ex-federal prosecutor and Marine with strong family ties to the area, prevailed by the thinnest of margins because people like Jamie Masciarelli put in the time going workplace to workplace to make sure he did. Masciarelli, a member of Local 249 and chief steward at Vogel Disposal, spent the week before Tuesday’s election making sure his fellow Teamsters were educated on the issues.
It was the first time Masciarelli had worked as a “lost timer”, but he said the effort was well worth it. “We tried to get into the members’ heads that it is important to vote pro-labor,” he said. “We converted people because of that. It made a difference.”
Despite the heavy Republican lean of Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district, voters were drawn to Lamb because he spoke about issues that mattered to them – pensions, fair trade and health care. Given the significant population of blue-collar workers in the district, they understood that their livelihoods – both on and off the job – were at risk. Rick Saccone, the Republican in the race, is a supporter of so-called right to work (RTW).
Masciarelli said he was one of two Teamsters who spent the days before the election going in the middle of the night to UPS sites and elsewhere making sure his fellow members knew the issues at hand. He said knowledge of the race in the district was high given the millions of dollars spent on advertisement on the airwaves. Saccone’s support of RTW was a common topic of conversation.
“We wanted to get our voice out,” he said. “It didn’t matter that it was 2, 3 a.m. We wanted our members to hear us and know that we’re with Conor Lamb. And it helped.”
Overall, Masciarelli described the experience of working on the campaign as “amazing”. The fourth-generation union man said it motivates him more to do more of the same this fall, when there are numerous important races on the ballot in Pennsylvania.
“This coming election with the governor and the Senate, it’s going to be huge,” he said. “It could be a real game-changer here.”