Fetterman joins Lehigh Valley union workers on the picket line

US Sen. John Fetterman posing for a picture with striking United Auto Workers members from the Mack Trucks plant outside of Allentown on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2023. (Photo: Sean Kitchen)

By Sean Kitchen

October 11, 2023

Thousands of United Auto Workers members in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Florida rejected a contract offer from Mack Trucks and went on strike on Monday. The union represents 4,000 Mack employees, with 2,500 based in the Lehigh Valley.

US Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pennsylvania) and US Rep. Susan Wild (D-Lehigh) greeted United Auto Workers members from Local 677 on the picket line outside the Mack Trucks plant in Macungie on Tuesday.  

Fetterman, who rolled up to the picket line driving his Ford Bronco, dropped off refreshments and boxes of Philly soft pretzels for the workers at multiple locations around the facility. He also took the time to take pictures and talk to the workers. 

“This makes my third UAW [picket] line where I showed up right here in the product of UAW workmanship,” Fetterman told reporters outside of UAW Local 677’s union hall, speaking of his UAW-made vehicle.  “I’m going to show up whenever I have to or when it’s needed because it’s so critical that these workers get a fair deal.”

According to the Associated Press, a deal had been reached between the union’s negotiating team and the company, but members rejected the proposed contract after 73% of the members voted against the manufacturer’s “final best offer.” This is the second time in four years that workers at the Mack plant have walked off the job. 

“In 2019, we were on strike as everybody knows. We went back to work with what seems to be a reasonable compromise,” said Mike Shupp, the vice president of UAW Local 677 and a 25 year employee for Mack Trucks.

“The last four years have been really rough for our members. There have been a lot of changes both with the economy and with society. Those changes don’t reflect in our contract or in the agreement that’s been presented.”

The UAW represents 4,000 Mack employees in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida, with the Allentown facility being the company’s largest plant in those three states. Roughly 2,500 workers are based in the Lehigh Valley manufacturing facility.   

Fetterman’s recent visits to the different UAW picket lines in Michigan and Pennsylvania over the past month underscore the party’s focus on supporting organized labor, a focus that reaches the top of the party.. 

In order for  President Biden to win reelection, he will have to win the union vote in key swing states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.  

Union voters from Pennsylvania accounted for 30% of the electorate in 2000, with 65% of the vote going to Al Gore, according to Blue Compass Strategies, a progressive research firm. By 2020, union voters represented just 18% of the electorate, while exit polling from the AP’s Vote Cast had Biden winning them 52% to 47%.

Those numbers rebounded during the 2022 midterm elections, when Fetterman carried union voters 52% to 45%, while incoming Gov. Josh Shapiro received 60% of the vote from union members. 

“My personal truth is that every time I was a candidate showing up to meet with unions all across the spectrum, I always said ‘I am not here for an endorsement, I am here to endorse you and your way of life. If I’m elected, I’m always going to stand and walk with you,’” Fetterman said when asked about the importance of supporting striking workers. 

“That’s exactly what I’ve done and I’m always honoring that kind of promise. Again, it’s always an honor to be working here today.”

 

Author

  • 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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