Phil Ameris, Pres of Construction Worker’s Union, Disparages Affordable Housing, Working Class Families

For your consideration from a PublicSource article about the hotly contested campaign for Allegheny County Chief Executive:

Phil Ameris, president of the Laborers District Council of Western Pennsylvania, added that Weinstein will “be a fair voice for both labor and development,” and in a dig at more progressive candidates, said he will represent more than “a select few neighborhoods.”

“I don’t think people in the South Hills are interested in affordable housing,” Ameris said.

I cannot recall the last time a quote about campaigns made my jaw drop like this one. In the era of Mastriano and Trump, that’s hard to top.

Philip Ameris LiUNA
Philip Ameris

I don’t know Phil Ameris, but I can only presume he’s a typical entitled white man who has zero regard for the economic working conditions of his lowest paid union members. I googled Phil’s salary. He’s not worried about affording housing in the South Hills or anywhere in Pittsburgh.

So who does this guy and his union represent?

The Laborers’ International Union of North America – is the most progressive, aggressive, and fastest growing union of construction workers and public sector employees. LIUNA members are on the forefront of the construction industry – a sector that is a powerhouse of 12 million workers producing over 5% of our countries economic output.

​A half-million strong, we are united through collective bargaining agreements which help us earn family supporting pay, good benefits, and the opportunity for advancement and better lives.

Construction workers. They build housing among other things. One would think some of those construction jobs are funded by housing infrastructure monies from Harrisburg and DC. Money for affordable housing? See below.

So who are the public sector employees of this union? Pittsburgh employees! Note: my wife is a public sector employee although not unionized. Google the salaries of Pittsburgh employees (public information) and the fact that most of them are required to live in the City and do the math about affordable housing.

LIUNA represents over 70,000 public employees. LIUNA public employees provide critical health care services, keep our parks clean, pick up our trash, maintain our roads, process our mail, and respond to emergencies both foreign and domestic. They work in all kinds of harsh environments, and often put their lives at risk to serve others.

Then I discovered the LIUNA has an affordable housing affiliate, the Laborers’ Home Development Corporation (LHDC), It was established in 1972 as a non-profit (like UPMC!)  developer of quality, affordable housing in under-served communities. LHDC was established in 1972. They currently have 12 developments up and running and fully occupied. These developments contain a total of 862 units with 160 units for independent senior living and 626 for families or seniors.

And how does the LIUNA promote this affiliate? Here are the talking points.

  • Creates jobs for our members and contractors
  • Increases market share in the apartment and residential segments
  • Enhances the union’s stature and status in the community
  • Creates quality affordable housing for working families and seniors *****
  • Creates union jobs to manage and maintain the facility after it is built
  • Generates revenue to do more and to support our charitable causes

So they seem to be quite worried about affordable housing when it comes to contracts and making money. Just not when it comes to other people needing affordable housing. To be fair, LHDC is part of the Midwest region and Pittsburgh is not in the Midwest region. Maybe they are more enlightened out there. Or pragmatic. Or less smarmy.

Men like Phil Ameris could care less what a lesbian blog has to say. But I’m still going to say it. If you make your living in any part building affordable housing then disparage affordable housing as a political concern, you are a bad person. You are taking advantage of my tax dollars to feed your pension and claiming solidarity with working class folks while politically undermining their best interests.

Phil Ameris didn’t need to drop that snarky smack. He could have said “John Weinstein is our guy” and let it go. And we all know who he is targeting with that comment – the women in the race. The progressive woman whose campaign has repeatedly described the economic instability in her family due to addiction. And the Black woman who works in affordable housing. He probably thinks he’s witty. He’s really simply past his expiration date in politics.

He is wrong. And he showed his hand – he’s underestimating Sara and Liv (and Mike Lamb.) He’s that guy, the one every woman knows. Smarmy, entitled, thinks he’s the smartest person in the room, and firmly wedded to money and power. He betrays his Taekwondo values with this comment.

I don’t think the Laborers’ Home Development Corporation should win contracts to build affordable housing as long as Phil Ameris is around. Or that the people affiliated with that corporation should be howling to the highest ups about the comment. I hope they make a statement.

I don’t think people in the South Hills should feel great about their communities being invoked and misrepresented to smack down candidates in a primary race. I hope South Hills Interfaith Ministries – one of the largest providers serving working families living in poverty – stands up with the support of their elected officials.

I don’t think the union organizers fighting for living wages and battling store by store to unionize Starbucks and other businesses should remain silent “in solidarity” with a union leader who clearly is out of touch with their challenges and the values of their members.

And I don’t think John Weinstein should earn political points and donations on the back of such a nasty, ill-informed show of support. He should denounce the comment. Or return the donation. Or work the behind the scenes good old boy network we know still exists to force Ameris to publicly apologize.

Allegheny County residents deserve better than this sort of throwback machination from an overinflated affluent white dude who fails to live up to the values he teaches (for money.)

He may have money, but he doesn’t have integrity. Or a meaningful connection to Democratic values, the values of working Americans.

Also, he doesn’t live in Allegheny County.


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