The Pennsylvania Statehouse has five lawmakers with Teamster ties fighting for workers in the state this year thanks to big wins in the Philadelphia metropolitan area during last November’s election.
Four freshmen legislators—Dave Delloso, President of Local 312 in Chester; Steve Malagari, a Local 830 member who until recently worked at Gretz Beer; Kristine Howard, a Local 384 member and recent Chester County caseworker who investigated child abuse claims; and Dan Williams, a former Local 384 member who once worked for UPS—joined seven-term Rep. Patrick Harkins of Erie, a former UPS driver and Local 397 member, as members of the House this year.
Harkins, for one, couldn’t wait for them to join him. As chairman of the House Labor Caucus, he said there is a lot of work to do to make sure working Pennsylvanians can continue to collectively bargain, earn a fair wage and work on safe job sites.
One piece of legislation Harkins is sponsoring and is hoping to push forward this year is named for former Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority worker Jake Schwab, who was killed on the job while repairing a bus. The bill would extend Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations to cover public sector workers in the state.
“I’m glad to have some more members come in with me that will stand up for working people,” he said. “I’m happy with the people we picked up. We can beat back whatever might come up in the future.”
Delloso said Harkins is providing new members with important knowledge that will help them on the job. Together, he said, “we practically have our own caucus of five Teamsters, which is fantastic. We are very diverse as a caucus, and the Teamsters will be very well represented.”
The Local 312 leader said he will work in a bipartisan fashion to enact legislation that helps workers. Using his experience at the bargaining table, Delloso said he is working in a collegial fashion and will compromise if necessary to strike a deal.
“When it comes to passing legislation, I know when to say when,” he said. “The will of the constituency must be our priority.”
Meanwhile, Howard said she’s seen what happens to families when parents don’t have regular work and can’t support their children. That’s why ending poverty should be a priority in Pennsylvania.
“People get into crime because they can’t make ends meet,” she said. “People are working part time, just piecing together jobs. It goes back to economic insecurity.”
She added that lawmakers need to do more to end the sense of hopelessness that many have about their economic situation. That means working to raise the minimum wage in the state, as well as make sure right to work doesn’t become a reality.
Williams, now a pastor, also values the importance of standing up for workers. And that means taking a stand to protect unions, he said.
“The ideas of collective bargaining, raising the minimum wage and fighting right to work are important,” he said. “We need to sustain jobs that are tethered to unions.”
Malagari said he is confident that the Teamster newcomers will be a group that will be able to work together, noting that they “have been able to bond not only as legislators, but as Teamsters.”
He said unions and their allies cannot afford to be divided by unimportant issues.
“The biggest things we can fight for are the things we believe in,” Malagari said. “All of us in our caucus believe workers should have a living wage. As a labor community, we need to stick together and fight for each other.”