PITTSBURGH, PA — Payday Report recently discovered that Steve Irwin, who is locked in a tough three-way primary for the open Pittsburgh congressional seat, was a partner at the anti-union “union avoidance” law firm Leech Tishman.
For at least a decade, Irwin oversaw the Labor and Employment division at Leech Tishman, a law firm that claims to provide “union avoidance” services, a common euphemism for what union organizers call “union busting”.
The revelation of Irwin’s role as head of a law firm division specializing in ‘union avoidance’ comes as the Pittsburgh-based Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council meets tonight to discuss who to endorse in the race for Congress.
In 2015, Irwin successfully worked with Leech Tishman to defeat a Pittsburgh City Council bill that would have guaranteed paid sick leave for low-wage workers.
For a July 2015 debate on whether to go on paid sick leave, Irwin appealed to small business owners to express concern about the law’s impact, according to a 2015 article on Leech Tishman’s website.
After a four-year legal battle that went all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the law, which was passed by the Pittsburgh City Council in 2015, was finally signed into law in 2020.
It’s possible this news could also prevent Irwin from gaining the endorsement of the local AFL-CIO, which could give Irwin a significant boost in both financial and union backing. .
Irwin is currently locked in a nationally watched three-way primary against black socialist state Rep. Summer Lee and Pitt law professor Jerry Dickinson, who is also black.
Although no polls were taken in the race, Irwin is leading in fundraising. In the last trimester, Irwin raised $337,980.84 while Summer Lee raised $272,512.02; Jerry Dickinson raised $120,108.97
Additionally, Irwin, the former Jewish leader of the Anti-Defamation League of Pittsburgh, has received the endorsement of the Democratic majority for Israel supported by PAC companies. The Super PAC spent more than $2 million to defeat progressive icon Nina Turner in a special Congressional election primary from nearby Cleveland in 2021.
Unlike Irwin, Lee’s campaign relied heavily on their grassroots strength and announced that they had collected 7,135 signatures to appear on the ballot. Irwin’s campaign garnered approximately 2,000 signatures; Dickinson did not reveal the number of petition signatures they collected.
On Thursday, Lee’s campaign and Irwin’s campaign traded high-profile endorsements. Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed Summer Lee, while Irwin received the endorsement of incumbent Congressman Mike Doyle and Allegheny County Executive Richard Fitzgerald.
It’s possible that the local AFL-CIO could endorse Irwin as they have fiercely opposed Summer Lee for years, primarily because of his opposition to fracking, which the local unions favor.
In the 2020 primary for state representative, Lee was the only incumbent state representative the AFL-CIO opposed for re-election, with many unions spending heavily against the former union organizer.
Already, SEIU, United Electrical (UE) and UFCW have endorsed Summer Lee, a former Fight for $15 organizer in Pittsburgh. The unions are the only ones to have endorsed the race for Congress so far.
Still, Irwin’s background as a law firm partner who worked against unions and advocating against paid sick leave could make it harder for him to gain AFL-CIO endorsement. local.
After being appointed by Governor Ed Rendell in the early 2000s, Irwin served in the company’s government relations division to lead the Banking and Securities Commission of Pennsylvania.
Irwin did not return a request for comment on his paid sick leave work when reached late Thursday evening. Payday Report will update this story when we receive feedback from Irwin.
The Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council declined to comment because the council is meeting tonight to decide on an endorsement.
Payday Report will be updated as we learn more.
(Full disclosure: State Rep. Summer Lee and I attended Woodland Hills High School together in the early 2000s.)
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