Pete Buttigieg praises PA union members at Machinists convention

Pete Buttigieg

US Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg speaking at the annual PA State Council of Machinists convention in York, Pa. on June 12, 2024. (Photo: Sean Kitchen)

By Sean Kitchen

June 12, 2024

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke at the annual Pennsylvania State Council of Machinists convention on Wednesday to promote President Biden’s pro-union record.

Pennsylvania’s union members and their households are at the center of the political universe. 

That’s what US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had to say before speaking in front of a room full of union members in York County on Wednesday. 

“There’s a lot of ways where the union vote in Pennsylvania is the center of the political universe right now,” Buttigieg told reporters before the annual Pennsylvania State Council of Machinists convention. 

“Part of how Joe Biden beat Donald Trump was enough union members in Pennsylvania said, ‘we’re not going to give Donald Trump four more years after what he did to us when we did give him a chance.’”

Biden won Pennsylvania by a little more than 80,000 votes in 2020 and shoring up union support could help him win one of the country’s most important swing states, even as the share of voters belonging to unions has declined in recent decades.  

Union voters accounted for 30% of Pennsylvania’s total electorate in the 2000 election with 65% of that vote going to Al Gore, according to Blue Compass Strategies. Today, union voters represent 18% of the commonwealth’s electorate with President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump splitting that vote in 2020.

Buttigieg traveled to York County as a surrogate for the Biden-Harris campaign, and spoke in front of 100 union delegates at the convention.

“[Biden] promised to be the most pro-worker, pro-union president in modern times, and he did that,” Buttigieg told the members. “And again, that’s not just a campaign promise. We’ve had getting on four years of that right now.”

“You see the results. Not just the jobs being created, the hundreds of thousands of jobs created in Pennsylvania, alone. The 15 million jobs and counting created across the United States of America, but the historic wins specifically for labor unions because the president always says ‘the middle class built America and unions built the middle class.’”

Pennsylvania workers have benefitted from Biden’s signature first term accomplishments. The commonwealth has received over $16 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, with $400 million to create a workforce development program. 

Additionally, over 33,000 Pennsylvania workers have had their pensions saved by the Butch Lewis Act, a provision inside the American Rescue Plan. The provision funds the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which protects pensions for more than 33 million workers. Prior to the American Rescue Plan, the PBGC was set to go insolvent by 2026.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) has over 20,000 members across the commonwealth and represents workers at airports across the commonwealth and manufacturing plants such as the Harley Davidson plant in York County. 

Nationally, the union represents over 600,000 workers, and last year, Biden overwhelmingly secured their endorsement for a second term, which was left up to the general membership. 

Jeff Chambers, a retiree from the Harley Davidson plant, said it was a “great boost” for Buttigieg to speak at the Machinists’ convention.

“I like Joe Biden,” Chambers said. 

“I think he’s a good human being, and he definitely supports union. We’ve been fighting against the big corporations for years now. Since Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers, there’s been a deterioration in union membership. I’m going to definitely vote for the person who supports the unions.”



  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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