Ivy League-educated John Fetterman, who's now pocketing a sumptuous six-figure salary as pandemic tyrant Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA)'s right-hand lackey, styles himself as a blue-collar candidate: one who's "a fierce supporter of unions," proudly walks the picket line with union workers on strike, and will be a voice in Washington for the "union way of life," if elected Tuesday (or whenever election results are tallied in Pennsylvania, tabulated at the rate the Muppet vampire on Sesame Street counts votes).
But some industry workers in the Pittsburgh area, a union hotspot where the Democratic nominee has been rallying heavily on the U.S. Senate campaign trail, are not fooled by the "lip service" and warn that Fetterman shouldn't speak for the masses.
Ahead of the November midterms, I had a couple candid conversations with several blue-collar workers in and around the Steel City who told Townhall what actual working-class Pennsylvanians have to say about Fetterman. Our talks were quite telling.
Of course, I knew first I had to call up my uncle, Ken "Kenny" Cathell of the Fetterman-backing Teamsters Local 926, who's a facility operator and an outspoken anti-Fetterman union representative. His closest workplace buddies also know my 61-year-old uncle—one of seven Cathell siblings, including my mother—by the avuncular term-of-endearment, "good ol' Uncle Kenny."
My regularly Carhartt-clad uncle chided Fetterman for often modeling earth-tone Carhartt hoodies and jackets—like his $110 water-repellent, insulated Rain Defender and graphic sweatshirt with the signature Carhartt logo emblazoned on one sleeve.
Carhartt is "not a fashion statement," Cathell said of the clothing line that manufactures work gear such as coveralls and fire-resistant apparel. "It's for working people. So don't wear a Carhartt and say you're a working-class person. You're just not."
The de facto uniform of American laborers since 1889 has been hijacked in recent years by Hollywood fashionistas and urban hipsters who don the Carhartt brand in rugged ensembles to emanate a workwear "aesthetic." Fetterman, a Harvard graduate, has been accused of cosplaying as a hard laborer and everyman despite his "cushy" upbringing. The Senate hopeful considers his typical attire, a Carhartt product paired with gym shorts, "Western PA business casual," as Fetterman once quipped on Twitter.
"He's faking it. John Fetterman has never had a real job in his life ever. Come out and work my job," Cathell challenged, railing against the "idiocy" of progressives portraying Fetterman as "the working man's candidate." Fetterman's well-to-do family has "spoon-fed him," he continued. "The Democrats are pushing this whole 'working man' crap. He's not the working man's guy."
When he does work, Fetterman is deskbound. But the office life doesn't stop Fetterman from rolling around in rags. Fetterman is no stranger to public office, yet the career politician still dresses like he threw on whatever wasn't in the wash cycle. For many, Fetterman's day-to-day costume is an offensive caricature of working-class people everywhere who put in an honest day's work.
"The guy looks sloppy," Jonathan Mayak, a non-union petroleum inspector and a pastor, said to Townhall, adding: "Wearing a hoodie doesn't necessarily represent a working man. We like to look nice and presentable. He just kind of looks like a bum."
"He's a fraud. He's a chameleon. He'll say whatever he can say to make it appeal to the audience he's speaking to, and again, he has shown me nothing that proves that he's going to represent the working man. His life is full of hand-me-outs from his parents."
Jonathan's brother, Danny Mayak, also a certified petroleum inspector, agreed that "it's all just an act."
"When you live in your mother's basement, I don't know how you call yourself a worker," Danny Mayak countered. Fetterman "doesn't represent me in any way," Mayak asserted. "Yes, he may dress like us, have the work clothes and the work boots, but as far as the work ethic goes, I don't think it's there. This guy has leeched off his parents and seems to leech off society, too."
The phrase "blue-collar tough guy" is trumpeted in a Fetterman campaign advert spotlighting the towering, tatted Fetterman before the billowing smokestacks of Braddock's historic Edgar Thomson Steel Works. The steel mill, situated across the street from Fetterman's home, provides a grungy backdrop to Fetterman's go-to photo opportunity when cameras visit Braddock.
Others indicated to Townhall they also feel that Fetterman is "a wolf in sheep's clothing" who hides behind blue-collar branding.
"That's a blatant lie to get more votes," another operator with Teamsters Local 926, who requested anonymity, told Townhall, referring to Fetterman's pro-labor persona. "He's lived off his parents' money until he was—what 49?" the teamster stated.
Public records show that Fetterman, as a middle-aged mayor only earning $150-per-month in office, frequently schmoozed off of Daddy's money during his 13-year mayoral tenure. Fetterman's allowance continued well into his 40s with the financial assistance serving as his main source of income. In 2015 alone, payments pouring in from Fetterman's parents accumulated to $54,000.
Still, Fetterman was endorsed by a hefty handful of labor organizations across Pennsylvania, including my uncle's own union.
"But it's just the union management; it's not the union body. The union body does not support the liberal, Democrat way. They just don't," my uncle underscored the disconnect during our Cathell-to-Cathell fireside chat. "It's the union heads, the leadership."
Operations manager Brad Shobert, who's on to the third union he's managed, told Townhall that most of today's unions, in terms of top brass, are still "following the Democratic Party blindly," whereas the members "typically don't support the same principles."
"So even though unions are saying, 'We support them,' the actual member base is not," Shobert explained.
Just this weekend, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten—whose influential teacher's organization lobbied for disruptions in classroom instruction, which have since caused a severe learning loss among grade-school students—was headlined at an AFT Pennsylvania get-out-the-vote event in south Philadelphia, canvassing to send Fetterman to the Senate.
The shutdown-happy teacher's unions differ from other kinds of unions "because their jobs are guaranteed," Jonathan Mayak said. "They're just mooching off the taxpayer," he elucidated, "while the other unions are dependent on the economy. I always take their union endorsements with a grain of salt because they'd probably vote for Hitler if it meant they got a pay raise."
Energy-wise, Fetterman has "aligned himself similarly with our current sitting president," said Shobert, who came from the gas-and-oil field and has a degree in chemical engineering. "I suspect he's going to immediately be a hindrance to fossil fuels."
Shobert mentioned the looming diesel-shortage crisis, which the Biden administration has failed to address, although America's economy runs on diesel fuel. "Well do something about it. That's the purpose of the federal government: to regulate interstate commerce. You're not doing a very good job if we've got a 25-day supply of diesel left. And diesel runs trains, boats, trucks."
"Day One, you eliminated the pipeline that could've helped us out; you've reduced and eliminated almost any and all ways that we can remain energy independent, while still telling me that you're here for the working person. You can't be here for the working person if you're driving my costs and raising my taxes," Shobert slammed Biden. "That doesn't give me a better quality of life."
A professional CDL driver, who transports bulk liquids and asked to be identified by only her first name "Lisa," called out Fetterman for his ever-changing positions on fracking, which he was grilled over amid his primetime debate with Dr. Oz.
"A lot of these energy type of jobs are what made our economy in Pennsylvania. There's a war on our energy," Lisa, an independent voter and ex-military member who was deployed mid-2000s to the Middle East, stated. "So we need candidates that are going to be in there that have our best interest. That's the thing: we can't have somebody that's flip-flopping around about it."
During the Fetterman-Oz faceoff, viewers experienced a flurry of emotions ranging from pity to secondhand embarrassment watching the stroke victim self-destruct on live television, unable to compute (even with the help of closed captioning) when pressed by the debate moderators to justify his contradictory statements signaling both support of and opposition to fracking.
Fetterman was also the star of a 2009 campaign ad for carbon caps when he was the mayor of Braddock and advocated for a moratorium on fracking in the battleground state, as he declared multiple times during his unsuccessful Senate bid in 2016.
"These objectives aren't Pittsburgh, aren't Pennsylvania—they're global types of issues and global concerns," Lisa said, outlining Fetterman's climate-change agenda. "We're not signing on to all of that. Everything he stands for isn't about Pennsylvania."
Danny Mayak said Fetterman doesn't have a thorough understanding of the fracking industry, which brings jobs to the region, serves as an economic accelerant, and ensures that the U.S. isn't reliant on oil-rich countries. "Trump had us at that point where we were energy independent. And two years later, we're now begging other countries for petroleum. And no, if he did understand it, he would be, 'Drill, baby, drill! Let's get independent!' No, he does not understand oil and gas. It's a money generator."
70-year-old Ed Roberts, a program director for a CDL training facility that instructs students who want to become tractor-trailer drivers, expressed to Townhall that the possibility of "soft-on-crime" Fetterman, who has called for the mass release of the state's prisoners, heading to the Senate "scares" him as well as most law-abiding Pennsylvanians afflicted by the rising crime rates.
"We're pretty scared of a guy like this from the standpoint of his outlook on crime, wanting to free a third of [Pennsylvania's] serious criminals...With that, not really attending Braddock's council meetings and not being there as a full-time mayor. So what's he going to be like as a senator?" Roberts questioned, after pointing to Fetterman's recurring absences at borough gatherings.
"Stop pandering to the one-, the two-, the 10-percents and start giving us normal people a little bit of relief..." Shobert, a combat veteran, added. "We're just normal guys that want to provide for our family, and to be honest, be left alone. Telling me what to say and telling me what I can't say—that's not the American way. And that's the platform that Fetterman seems to be interested in."
Jonathan Mayak said there's "a disconnect between what [Fetterman] thinks we want and the reality that we live in. The messaging just doesn't even add up." Moving on to speak broadly about Democrat politicians at-large, Mayak said: "It seems to be the case where they'll say anything to get elected, but, we've never seen them do much to help us. They talk about the working class all the time and all they do is create barriers with high energy costs, putting industries out of business, and more regulations. And that's what his party stands for. And I just don't see how that helps us at all. It just makes life more difficult."
"Fetterman epitomizes the agenda of the far-left," Mayak said. "I am utterly shocked that the guy has gotten as far as he has...I think if he would show his true colors, which, heaven forbid, he gets elected, I think we'll start to see he'll be a Pelosi puppet."
Danny Mayak suggested that if elected officials "were in the trenches every day like we are," they'd see that there's less money in people's pockets nowadays to enjoy life beyond simply sustaining themselves. "All they can do is just pay their bills and live."
"I feel that the politicians don't relate to the common person because they have their gas or their cars paid for by the government. They're not seeing the electric bills; they're not seeing the natural gas bills that heat your home. And they're not putting hundreds of dollars in their car every month and seeing the groceries go up in price. Things are provided for them, you know?" Mayak said.