USW to mount campaign against Altmire for health care vote

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Saying a vote against the health care bill would be a betrayal of workers and working families, the United Steelworkers threatened to draft a local labor leader to run against Rep. Jason Altmire if the congressman votes against the legislation today.

Mr. Altmire, D-McCandless, on Friday announced his intention to vote against the historic measure, saying he felt it did not do enough to reduce health care costs. Local USW officials -- who backed Mr. Altmire's previous congressional bids -- decided over the weekend to pull volunteer and financial resources from the second-term Democrat's upcoming run for re-election if he follows through, a national USW official said.

Instead, the Pittsburgh-based union would back Allegheny County Labor Council President Jack Shea in a run against Mr. Altmire, said Tim Waters, director of the USW's Rapid Response political arm.

"We're tired of listening to politicians like Jason Altmire promise that he's going to stand with us and stand with working families in his congressional district and then side with corporate interests and insurance companies and big hospitals," Mr. Waters said Saturday. "Our families burned up a lot of shoe leather ... to get him in office because he promised us he was with us."

Mr. Shea, who could not be reached Saturday night, has not committed to running against Mr. Altmire although USW officials are "confident" he will do so if asked, Mr. Waters said. The deadline for filing for the May 18 primary has passed, so Mr. Shea would have to mount a write-in campaign for the Democratic primary or run as an independent in the fall, Mr. Waters said.

Mr. Altmire's district was "ground zero" for a national effort to encourage USW chapters to pull their support from legislators who vote against the health care bill, Mr. Waters said, although he added that such decisions will ultimately be made on the local level.

"Anyone turning their back on us now is going to be met with the harsh reality that we're going to be looking for other alternatives and actively seeking other alternatives," he said.

Bill George, president of Pennsylvania's AFL-CIO, said his union was also considering throwing its weight behind Mr. Shea if Mr. Altmire votes "no" on the health care bill today.


Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2533.


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