How some workers are voting in the crucial state of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania's blue-collar workers share views on election

Pennsylvania holds 20 votes on the electoral college map, making it one of the most valuable prizes going into the 2020 election. Also home to more than 700,000 union members, winning the state may come down to blue-collar workers. Some of them spoke to "CBS This Morning" co-host Tony Dokoupil about which candidate they think could promise the best future for them. 

"I voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris," welder Luke Wanchock said. "They're pro-labor. I've never watched a Trump commercial and seen him mention anything about union labor."

Wanchock works at the Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex, a massive new Shell project announced during the Obama-Biden years. 

President Trump, who carried Pennsylvania by less than 1%, once claimed at the energy plant that "this would have never happened" without his presidency. 

"I don't believe a single word he says," Wanchock said. "My livelihood is working with my hands…I feel like he's giving more opportunity to the billionaires to make more off the working class."

He acknowledged that Democrats had been in power while union membership decreased and CEO pay increased, but said "all politicians share some of the blame for that."

Mr. Trump capitalized on that blame in 2016 when he won more union votes nationwide than any Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan. In Pennsylvania, he won White voters without college educations by a margin of more than two to one.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is working to win back crucial union votes. 

His position as a self-proclaimed "union man" took a hit in March when he appeared to say he wanted "no new fracking," and although he clarified his position, groups supporting the Trump campaign quickly weaponized the comments in the gas-rich state.

Rich Fitzgerald, a Biden supporter and the top elected official in Pennsylvania's Allegheny County, helped broker a deal to lease land at Pittsburgh International Airport for fracking. In the first five years, it generated an estimated $97 million in revenue — something he said saved the struggling airport. 

Fitzgerald also said the natural gas industry was "huge" to his area, but expressed confidence in the former vice president and his plan to have the U.S. running on carbon-free power by 2035. 

Fitzgerald explained that "carbon capturing" was the way into the future.

"Technologies are improving the production of not only the carbon — by the way, much less carbon — because of natural gas, much less than coal and oil," he said. 

While pro-Trump ads painted a bleak portrait of job numbers under Biden — claiming "600,000 Pennsylvanians' jobs" would be lost —  Fitzgerald said investing in green technologies meant "there'll be more jobs" rather than less.

"We need to run our daily lives, but it can be done safer. Because we just can't ignore what's going on in the climate, and Joe Biden gets that," Fitzgerald said. 

However, to other Pennsylvania voters, it is the economy that matters most, and people like small business owner Tara Heffern said the president's "businessman" image is what attracted her to him.

"Trump resonates with me because, you know, look at all the businesses and the everything he built," Heffern said.

Heffern owns a small machine shop in Meadville, Pennsylvania. She compared Trump to her grandfather, who she said gained success through hard work and pulling himself "up by the bootstraps."

Another Trump supporter, McKean, Pennsylvania resident Cody Swartword, said he is planning on voting for the president for the first time. 

McKean sits in Erie County, a former Democrat-leaning area that Mr. Trump won by promising a blue-collar renaissance that has yet to arrive four years later.

Despite Erie County having fewer manufacturing jobs than when the president took office, even before the coronavirus pandemic, Swartword said those who do not support Mr. Trump are intimidated by "what other people think."

"He's doing what he wants to do, and what should be done. All the people that don't want him are scared," Swartword said

"CBS This Morning" dedicates a special hour at 8 a.m. to the "At America's Crossroads" series co-hosted from Pennsylvania by Tony Dokoupil.


We and our partners use cookies to understand how you use our site, improve your experience and serve you personalized content and advertising. Read about how we use cookies in our cookie policy and how you can control them by clicking Manage Settings. By continuing to use this site, you accept these cookies.