This story first published in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.

Heavy equipment rumbled in the background as two U.S. representatives — Chris Deluzio, D-Aspinwall, who represents Pennsylvania’s 17th District, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. — stood before a small group of reporters at a Pittsburgh International Airport parking lot on Monday afternoon and talked for nearly 10 minutes about the facility’s $1.5 billion modernization project. That work is helped along, the two pointed out, by the passage of President Joe Biden’s massive infrastructure bill a few years ago.

When it came time for questions, however, it became clear that reporters had something other than infrastructure on their minds. A few hours earlier, the Supreme Court had issued a decision giving former President Donald Trump substantial immunity from prosecution for acts as president. For months, pundits and politicians had speculated about the direction the court would take and how it would affect the upcoming election cycle. The 6-3 decision will most likely delay Trump’s trial on charges he plotted to subvert his 2020 election loss to Biden.

Did Jeffries have any thoughts about the ruling? His answer began with a bit of a history lesson.

“In America the foundational principles first established in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1787 is that no one is above the law,” he said. “This is not a country of kings or monarchs or dictators. We’re a democracy. And it’s important to make sure that standard is brought to life all across the country. Everyday Americans are held to that standard.”

Jeffries then motioned to several hard hat-wearing union workers standing nearby. 

“The men and women of organized labor are held to that standard,” he continued. “We have to make sure that people in powerful positions are also held to the standard that in America no one is above the law. And it appears the Supreme Court has not done justice to that standard in this unfortunate decision.”

Jeffries said the House Democratic Caucus had yet to look closely at the decision but noted it was just one of a few recent Supreme Court rulings his party views as concerning. He specifically mentioned the Chevron decision, issued Friday, which sweeps aside long-standing legal precedent and makes it more difficult for federal agencies to regulate areas such as the environment, health care, and workplace safety.

“We’re going to have to study and evaluate the decisions that have been issued over the last couple of days, but they are deeply troubling and inconsistent,” he said, with congressional efforts to “deliver a better quality of life for the American people.”

Next came questions about last week’s presidential debate and Biden’s lackluster (some say disastrous) performance. Was it concerning to Deluzio and Jeffries?

“I’ve been clear who I’m supporting in this race, and as much as it was a tough night, I think I also heard Donald Trump lie probably 30 times,” Deluzio said. “I heard him say he won’t commit to respecting the election results [in 2024], and I continue to think he’s a significant threat to our freedom, this democracy.”

Jeffries quickly pivoted the discussion to what he termed Biden’s successes — he noted the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill as an example.

“It was one debate as compared to an incredible track record of success that President Biden has had over his 3½ years in office,” Jeffries said. “All across the country we’re creating millions of good-paying union jobs by fixing our crumbling bridges, roads, tunnels, mass transit systems and airports, modernizing them for the future.”

Biden, he said, is “putting people over politics, making life better for the American people, solving problems and delivering real results.”

Deluzio noted that he’d spent time with Biden in February during the president’s visit to Darlington, Pennsylvania, and the Ohio village of East Palestine, communities that had suffered from the impact of a toxic train derailment in 2023.

In meetings with local officials and first responders, Deluzio said, Biden was “crisp” and focused on “making sure the folks in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio are made whole and that this railroad [company] is held to account.”

Union workers listen while House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York speaks at a news conference in a parking lot near Pittsburgh International Airport on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

One theme of the day was the congressmen’s support for organized labor — a point hammered home by the presence of the half-dozen union workers wearing safety vests and work boots.

“We recognize that in America, when you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to provide a comfortable living for yourself and your family, purchase a home, educate your children, have access to high quality health care, go on vacation every now and then, and one day retire with grace and  dignity,” Jeffries said. “That’s the American dream, and no one entity has done more to promote that American dream than organized labor. So our commitment is to continue to make sure we are creating good-paying union jobs, and that’s exactly what this airport project represents.”

Steve is a photojournalist and writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he is currently on strike and working as a Union Progress co-editor. Reach him at

Steve Mellon

Steve is a photojournalist and writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he is currently on strike and working as a Union Progress co-editor. Reach him at