From bustling steel mills and construction sites to nationally recognized health and education institutions, Pennsylvania’s professional landscape has long been both a beacon of opportunity and a stronghold of organized labor – with unionized worker rates surpassing the national average. In recent years, this vitality has come not only from union recruitment and workforce initiatives, but also from an emphasis on inclusivity that has brought new energy and voices to storied industries.
This list was written by journalist Hilary Danailova.
Since becoming the first woman ever elected president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO last year, Angela Ferritto has prioritized higher wages, safe working conditions and reliable benefits for workers. She also serves as the chief political advocate – including as a voice on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition team – for her 700,000 members in 1,400 locals across the commonwealth. Prior to her election, Ferritto was active with AFSCME in Erie and Harrisburg and was employed with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.
When the candidate he championed, Cherelle Parker, won Philadelphia’s all-important Democratic mayoral primary, it was just the latest example of the political acumen of Ryan Boyer, head of the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council. Boyer, who is also the business manager of Philadelphia’s Laborers District Council, has prioritized the kinds of relationships that make his unions such power players – not only with City Hall, but also with his statewide counterpart, the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council, and the Philly-area coalition behind “Everybody Builds,” a workforce diversity initiative.
Earlier this month, Aaron Chapin became the new president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, which represents nearly 180,000 workers at schools across the commonwealth. Chapin, a Penn State graduate and longtime Stroudsburg middle school teacher, was previously the PSEA vice president. In his new role, Chapin heads efforts to resolve education funding inequities, boost educator salaries, and secure cost-of-living pension adjustments as well as state investment in school mental health professionals.
At AFSCME Council 13, which represents 65,000 Pennsylvania public employees, executive director David Henderson and president Howard Thompson are celebrating historic pay increases and health funding in the union’s new collective bargaining agreement with the commonwealth. Their ranks are also increasing, thanks to successful participation in AFSCME’s recruitment drive.
Henderson, a third-generation AFSCME member, is also an international vice president for the union and has held leadership roles with the Pennsylvania Employee Benefit Trust Fund and the PA AFL-CIO. Thompson, a road foreman for Neshannock Township, joined Local 2902 as a PennDOT worker and has also served as president of AFSCME District Council 85.
Wendell Young IV and Michele Kessler represent the diverse spectrum of workers at UFCW Local 1776 Keystone State – a union with 35,000 members employed in industries from meatpacking plants and supermarkets to drugstores, Fine Wines & Spirits outlets, manufacturers and nursing homes.
In nearly two decades helming Local 1776, Young’s forcus remains on supporting unionized workers through recent transitions like Kroger’s acquisition of Acme markets and changes in the state’s liquor laws. His experience also includes leadership roles with the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans and the UFCW International Union.
As secretary-treasurer, Kessler supervises the union’s operations and finances. She is also a well-known activist for LGBTQ+ causes, and previously oversaw the northeast and central division for Local 1776 in the mid-Atlantic.
Pittsburgh-based Neal Bisno leads SEIU’s state strategies to advance racial and economic justice through organizing and political strength. As international executive vice president since 2016, Bisno oversaw the union’s successful efforts to elect pro-union candidates in 2020 and 2022 and to translate those wins into legislative gains. Bisno previously served as president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, where he spearheaded campaigns to ban forced overtime for health care workers, expand Medicaid and secure protections for 20,000 home care workers.
William Sproule got his start building Atlantic City casinos – but he knows that hard work and collective action, not luck, are what build a career. Sproule is executive secretary-treasurer of the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, where he supervises day-to-day operations, guides collective bargaining and works to expand opportunities for 42,000 union members in locals throughout Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic. He is a trustee for the Mid-Atlantic Carpenters Fund, the Mid-Atlantic Carpenters Training Center and the Philadelphia & Vicinity Joint Apprenticeship Training Fund.
With 1.2 million members throughout North America, the United Steelworkers are among the mightiest of unions – nowhere more so than in Pennsylvania, a state synonymous with steel.
Thomas Conway serves as president of USW’s international executive board, bringing labor negotiation skills honed over a career that began at Bethlehem Steel and includes a lengthy stint as the union’s vice president.
Bernie Hall, the youngest member of the Steelworkers International Executive Board, is USW’s Pennsylvania director, representing 50,000 members statewide in District 10. He also co-chairs the Pennsylvania Steel Alliance.
John Shinn, who, as secretary-treasurer, serves as USW’s international chief financial officer, also chairs the union’s chemical sector. He was the longtime director of USW’s East Coast district.
Lifelong labor activists Matt Yarnell and Silas Russell serve as president and vice president, respectively, for SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, the state’s largest and fastest-growing caregivers’ union.
Yarnell started his career at 18 as a nursing assistant at a long-term care facility. Since becoming union president in 2016, he has secured hundreds of millions of dollars in new investments and industry training for his nursing home colleagues and successfully fought for improved safety and staffing regulations.
Inspired by the working-class struggles of his immigrant grandparents, Russell leads the union’s political program – growing SEIU Healthcare PA’s influence through election and policy wins and serving as a key ally to Gov. Josh Shapiro, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and Allegheny County Executive candidate Sara Innamorato.
This fall, the Debs Foundation will honor Lynne Fox with the Debs Award – recognizing the legacy of iconic labor activist Eugene Debs – for Fox’s lifelong dedication to laborers, particularly her role in organizing Starbucks employees. Fox has led Workers United’s Philadelphia Joint Board for two decades; since 2016, she has also served as international president of Workers United, the SEIU affiliate with 90,000 North America members. She sits on the SEIU executive board and was the first woman to chair the Amalgamated Bank board.
Pennsylvania’s newest secretary of labor, Nancy Walker, was inspired to fight for workers by her father, a teacher forced to retire early when his employer would not accommodate his disability. Walker began her own career as a labor and employment attorney before serving as the state’s first chief deputy attorney general in the newly created Fair Labor Section. In her latest role, she has championed a state agency dedicated to enforcing labor laws, tackled the commonwealth’s beleaguered unemployment compensation system and bolstered CareerLink services.
Veteran labor activist James Snell is the business manager for Steamfitters Local 420, serving a membership of 350,000-plus welders, plumbers and HVAC technicians in the Philadelphia chapter of UA, the North American Steamfitters union. Snell’s constituency is employed across a 10-county region and includes the workers who service Pennsylvania’s critical natural gas pipelines. Under his supervision, Local 420 maintains a busy training program for pipefitters and other essential laborers in the Keystone State’s energy economy.
Since becoming president of the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council last year, Robert Bair has thrown his energetic advocacy behind policies he believes will create opportunities for the commonwealth’s construction workers. Bair, who previously led Harrisburg-based IBEW Local 143, recently advised Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition team on workforce development and has championed state-backed solar energy projects, called for reform of Pennsylvania’s permitting process and forged close ties with his Philadelphia counterpart, Ryan Boyer, who heads the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council.
Having thrown his union’s support behind numerous candidates over the years, longtime labor boss Gary Masino is on the ballot himself this fall. Masino, the president and business manager of Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 in Philadelphia, is the Democrat challenging Brian O’Neill – Philadelphia City Council’s last Republican – for a seat representing Northeast Philadelphia. Masino, who served on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition team last year, is counting on support from his 4,300-member union and the Philadelphia Building Trades Council, where Masino is assistant business manager.
In a momentous generational shift, Daniel Bauder was elected last year as president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, a role previously held for decades by his mentor, Pat Eiding. Bauder, a third-generation union member from Luzerne County, previously served as campaign manager for the council, which represents over 100 local unions. This year, he led support for the UPS Teamsters’ contract fight and championed strikers around the region, from graduate workers at Temple University to Teamsters at Liberty Coca-Cola.
Under the leadership of veteran organizer Gabe Morgan, SEIU 32BJ has seen rapid growth in the ranks of its mid-Atlantic membership. Morgan, the union’s state director for Pennsylvania and Delaware, now represents 22,000 workers and counting. Morgan’s experience also includes serving as president of the SEIU Pennsylvania State Council, the union’s political branch; founding Pittsburgh United, a social justice coalition; and being active with the national board of the Working Families Party for PA.
As president of SEIU Local 668, a member-driven labor union representing nearly 20,000 workers across Pennsylvania, Steve Catanese recently served as chief contract negotiator for half of its membership – 10,000 professional-level state employees. Catanese, who assumed his post in 2018, has also prioritized post-pandemic recruitment and retention incentives – including substantial wage hikes and telework agreements – for essential public workers. He serves on the SEIU International Executive Board as well as the United Way of Pennsylvania Board.
Labor attorney Deborah Willig, the first woman ever to serve as chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, was recognized for her groundbreaking achievements this year with the Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession. Willig is a managing partner at Willig Williams Davidson, a Philadelphia employment law firm, and is well known for her work on collective bargaining between Philadelphia’s government, school district and union workers.
As the first Latino to become business manager for a major Southeastern Pennsylvania union and to serve on the board of SEPTA, Esteban Vera Jr. is a prominent face of Philadelphia’s burgeoning Hispanic presence. Vera, a Puerto Rican American, is also an energetic advocate locally and statewide for the 3,000 members of Laborers Union Local 57, which he leads. The U.S. Army veteran has rallied his constituency on behalf of pro-union candidates at election time and will doubtless do so again this November.
Bill Hamilton, the state’s most powerful Teamster, began his career as a trucker five decades ago and now advises top officials like Gov. Josh Shapiro, on whose transition committee he served as an economic development adviser. Hamilton leads the Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters; he also serves as vice president for the Eastern Region of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and as president of Joint Council 53 in Philadelphia.
Darrin Kelly stands up for Pittsburgh-area workers as president of the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, a Western Pennsylvania AFL-CIO affiliate. Kelly, a U.S. Navy veteran and longtime Pittsburgh firefighter, is leading local efforts to support the AFL-CIO’s union recruitment push, to back worker safety laws and to galvanize Democratic voters for November’s election. He previously served as the organization’s executive vice president and is also active with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1 and the Pennsylvania Professional Fire Fighters Association.
When Fredrick Redmond was elected AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer last year, he made history as the highest-ranking African American in the history of the U.S. labor movement. Redmond, a vaunted social justice leader, now co-chairs the union’s Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice, promoting the movement’s growing emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Prior to his current roles, Redmond served as international vice president for human affairs with the United Steelworkers, where he led its civil and human rights division.
Fresh off his successful campaign against private-school voucher funding in this year’s state budget, Arthur Steinberg was just reelected to his third term heading AFT Pennsylvania, lending his considerable influence to the state’s teacher union. Steinberg, a 40-year education and union veteran, also serves as vice president of its national organization, the American Federation of Teachers, as well as vice president of both the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO and the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO. He is also treasurer for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Local 3.
It’s contract time for Philadelphia’s SEPTA workers – and that means Brian Pollitt is fighting for higher pay and increased safety measures for his 5,000 members at Transport Workers Union Local 234. Pollitt, a 30-year veteran of the Philly transit scene, assumed leadership of SEPTA’s biggest labor union two years ago. In his first major test, he’s negotiating a better deal for 234’s train, trolley and bus operators and mechanics – while the city’s transit agency struggles with low ridership, well-publicized safety lapses and budget shortfalls.
Jerry Jordan grew up in a family of educators, became one himself and now fights for his colleagues as head of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. The onetime Spanish and ESL instructor serves as president and chief negotiator for a union confronting myriad post-pandemic challenges – including staff shortages and crumbling school infrastructure. Jordan is also vice president of the Philadelphia Central Labor Council and the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, and a vice president on the AFT executive council.
At the PA Workforce Development Association, where she is executive director, Carrie Amann has expanded opportunity through initiatives like a policy and advocacy fellowship and Hosting Apprenticeship PA, a collaborative to advance work-based learning. Amman honed her skills as deputy secretary of policy for education and workforce under then-Gov. Tom Wolf, where she facilitated the governor’s Middle Class Task Force and was the policy lead for the PAsmart agenda, a STEM initiative. She currently chairs the PASAE Foundation.
With his reelection this year to the helm of IBEW Local 98, Mark Lynch continues moving the politically powerful union – which had been tarred by controversy when Lynch’s predecessor, John Dougherty, was convicted on federal bribery charges in 2021 – forward. Lynch has the support of the union’s 5,000 Philadelphia-area members, who are looking ahead to projects like Schuylkill Yards and the proposed Center City arena. Prior to becoming Local 98’s business manager, Lynch was the union’s safety coordinator.
Sam Williamson has celebrated myriad labor wins over nine years as Western Pennsylvania district director for 32BJ SEIU, a union representing 6,500 Pittsburgh school and food service employees and security officers. Williamson has a long history of community and union organizing, beginning with his early days as a Boston hotel waiter. Prior to assuming his current role, Williamson served as Pittsburgh director for the UNITE HERE PA Joint Board.
In the three years since Ernest Garrett became the first new president of AFSCME District Council 33 in a quarter-century, he has served as an enthusiastic ringleader for recruitment, emphasizing the benefits of union membership to a receptive new generation. At DC 33, Garrett leads a 15-local organization with 10,000 members working in Philadelphia’s essential service sectors, such as corrections, utilities and sanitation. Last year, the Philadelphia Tribune named him one of “Philadelphia’s Most Influential African Americans.”
For nearly a decade, JoAnne Sessa has kept finances on track at SEIU Local 668, a human services union representing 20,000 Pennsylvania employees in both the private and public sectors. Sessa serves as statewide secretary-treasurer for the local, as well as supervising its budget and finance committee. She is also executive vice president at the Delaware County Central Labor Council, a 30-local regional coalition affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
John Hundzynski, secretary for the National Union of Hospital and Healthcare Employees, is one of Philadelphia’s most influential health care labor figures. He is also president of NUHHE’s District 1199C, the Philadelphia local where he graduated from a certified nursing assistant training program in 1994, around the time he began organizing as an employee of Jefferson and Hahnemann University Hospitals. More recently, Hundzynski served as chief negotiator in regional collective bargaining processes and lobbied for policy addressing the widespread and worsening health care labor shortage crisis.
Last year, Joseph Regan assumed leadership of the Fraternal Order of Police’s Pennsylvania State Lodge, representing 40,000 law enforcement employees throughout the commonwealth. Regan, a retired veteran of the Lower Merion Township Police Department, previously served as the state lodge’s recording secretary and also chaired its legislative committee, a role in which he testified before the state legislature. In his new role, Regan has spoken out widely on the hazards police face – especially following this year’s high-profile officer shooting at Philadelphia’s Temple University.
Construction union boss Philip Ameris happens to be a taekwondo grandmaster – but his most recent tussle took place during this year’s Pittsburgh Labor Day parade, when he publicly clashed with Mayor Ed Gainey. Ameris, who heads the Western Pennsylvania Laborers’ Union, is at odds with the mayor as he seeks stronger government support for the union’s 27,000 construction workers in locals affiliated with the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
Under Rosslyn Wuchinich, Philadelphia’s Local 274 marshaled airport food service workers to win a union, double wages and secure health coverage – all while scoring higher pay for hotel employees and stadium workers. Wuchinich is also vice president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO and the UNITE HERE International Union, and is a board member of Partnership for Working Families.
Susan Scattaregia leads Pittsburgh-based UNITE HERE Local 57, the union’s Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia branch. She fights to win and protect the wages, benefits and working conditions for a constituency of hospitality employees who staff casinos, airports, convention centers and hotels throughout the region.
In her sixth year at the helm of Philadelphia-based UNITE HERE Local 634, chief labor negotiator Nicole Hunt is currently leading contract talks with the School District of Philadelphia. Hunt also sits on the General Executive Board of the International Union and on UNITE HERE’s Black Leadership Group.
A union activist since 1980, Nina Esposito-Visgitis was elected in 2011 as the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers’ first female president. The onetime school speech-language pathologist has led the PFT through 10 successful contract negotiations, initiated the district’s community school model and led the PFT to become the commonwealth’s first union supporting CeaseFire PA’s Commonsense Agenda for Gun Reform. Esposito-Visgitis is currently executive vice president for the American Federation of Teachers’ Pennsylvania chapter and vice president of the PA AFL-CIO and the Allegheny County Labor Council.
Based in Philadelphia, Ben Connors leads the General Building Contractors Association, where he champions inclusivity and solidifies labor partnerships. Connors is a founding board member of Philadelphia’s Everybody Builds and of the multistate Progress 360, dedicated to advancing diversity in the construction industry. He is also a founding director for 21 Unified, a labor-management partnership, and serves on the board of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia and as treasurer for the Associated General Contractors of America’s Executive Leadership Committee.
Jon O’Brien oversees the Keystone Contractors Association, where he guides labor relations, safety services, continuing education and advocacy for a statewide commercial construction trade group. O’Brien recently introduced mental health resources – including suicide prevention training – for his membership, and champions the annual Pennsylvania Construction Opioid Awareness Week. He is also co-host of the Building PA Podcast and serves on the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Appeals Board, the Pennsylvania Apprenticeship and Training Council, and the South Central PA Works Workforce Development Board.
IBEW veteran Richard Muttik has been a fixture at Local 126 for more than 20 years – for the last dozen as business manager and financial secretary. He oversees a union whose membership comprises electricians, utility and maintenance workers and tree trimmers throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In addition to ensuring competitive wages and benefits, Muttik cultivates relationships with regional municipalities, employers and workforce councils to promote new opportunities for his colleagues.
Since 2019, James Martini has headed the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Board, the governor’s business-led policy advisory group dedicated to aligning education with economic needs. Martini serves as team lead for Pennsylvania’s Job Quality Academy Team, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and Jobs for the Future; he developed and implemented the state’s multiyear Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. He previously worked as an economist for the state Department of Labor and Industry.
As contract talks drag on between the Pensylvania State System of Higher Education and its unionized faculty, Kenneth Mash once again finds himself in the diplomatic middle. Mash, an East Stroudsburg University political science professor, is the longtime president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, which represents the commonwealth’s 5,000 higher-education employees. He’s tasked with negotiating the next phase for college instructors in an era of shrinking enrollments and institutional consolidation.
At the Pittsburgh office of Cozen O’Connor, Thomas Giotto chairs the labor and employment department and represents management in a wide range of issues concerning labor, employment and related litigation. His work has included cases involving labor organizing, collective bargaining and strike negotiations, litigation involving harassment and discrimination, and defense against claims of unfair labor practices or violations of federal policy. Tom is a fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and serves on the Urban Academy of Greater Pittsburgh board, Pittsburgh's oldest charter school institution.
Reesa Kossoff recently left her role as executive director of the Pennsylvania SEIU State Council to become deputy director of the national union’s State Power Program. Kossoff’s political organizing dates back more than a decade, when she worked as a regional press director for President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign. More recently, she led political action on behalf of the union’s 80,000 Pennsylvania workers, rallying her membership across the state at election time.
Through the challenges of the pandemic, racial justice protests and a multiyear crime surge, Philadelphia’s police have had a champion in John McNesby. He leads the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, supporting law enforcement workers while providing a counterpoint to the more progressive agenda of Philadelphia’s district attorney, Larry Krasner. Over his nearly two decades as president, McNesby has won loyalty and influence through his strategic negotiations at contract time – winning better pay and working terms for his membership.
Over a storied career in Pennsylvania’s labor scene, David Fillman rose from a job with PennDOT to a 20-year tenure at the helm of AFSCME Council 13, the PA AFL-CIO’s largest union, and also serving as a vice president of its international organization. Since 2015, Fillman has chaired the board of the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System; he has also brought his financial oversight to leadership of the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund and the Coalition for Labor Engagement and Accountable Revenue.
As Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry has prospered, Steamfitters Local 449 chief Kenneth Broadbent has made sure his membership has reaped the opportunities. The Pittsburgh-based union’s longtime business manager stepped up recruitment and launched an $18.5 million training facility to bolster the pipeline of workers servicing major projects for Shell, Sunoco and other energy outfits. Last year, Broadbent cut the ribbon on a new headquarters for the 110-year-old union. He is also the national union’s vice president for District 2, representing the mid-Atlantic.
From contractors to construction managers, service and supplier outfits, David Daquelente represents major stakeholders in the Allegheny region’s commercial construction industry. Daquelente directs the Master Builders Association of Western Pennsylvania, managing everything from political action and workforce development to labor relations for 300 members in a 140-year-old organization. Daquelente, who was previously executive director for the Ironworker Employers Association of Western Pennsylvania, currently serves on the executive board for Develop Pittsburgh, an initiative of the Builders Guild of Western PA.
Tackling the Allegheny region’s job decline and aging population, construction union boss Tom Melcher is an energetic cheerleader for workforce solutions. As chief of the Pittsburgh Regional Building and Construction Trades Council, he prioritizes recruitment and the local partnerships that yield opportunity for his membership. The longtime member of Iron Workers Local Union 3 also co-chairs Pittsburgh Works Together, a coalition dedicated to fortifying the region’s economic future by boosting traditional industries like steel and energy, supporting emerging sectors and improving job preparation.
Together, labor leaders Drew Simpson III, James Hocker and Layla Bibi support the 41,000 workers organized with the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, the regional affiliate of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
Simpson, vice president of the Regional Council, is also regional manager of Carpenters Local Union 445 in Scranton, where he is a longtime member. He serves on the Pennsylvania Joint Task Force on Misclassification and Employees, a state entity that scrutinizes wage theft and worker misclassification.
Based in Philadelphia, James Hocker serves as the union’s regional manager for Southeastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia. The veteran carpenter and labor activist previously served as the council’s senior representative to the City of Philadelphia.
Layla Bibi, who co-chairs the Sisters in the Brotherhood Committee, is often spotted mentoring women at the Carpenters Joint Apprentice Training Center in her native Philadelphia. An executive member of Local 158, she is active with the National Association of Women in Construction.
At his eponymous Philadelphia law firm, Sidney Gold represents employees and employers in matters ranging from anti-discrimination and civil rights laws to the ADA and Family and Medical Leave Act. The Temple Law grad also serves as an arbitrator and mediator for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. A fellow of the American Bar Foundation, Gold has held leadership roles with the National Employment Lawyers Association, the Pennsylvania Bar Institute Employment Law Institute, and city and state bar associations.
As business manager for Philadelphia-based Ironworkers Local 401, Kevin Boyle oversees a key institution on the commonwealth’s high-octane construction landscape. Boyle, himself a onetime construction worker, also serves as financial secretary-treasurer for the union, which represents 700 members and is affiliated with the International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers of America. He recently celebrated a $300,000 investment to bolster Local 401’s highly regarded four-year training program from the state Pre-Apprentice and Apprenticeship Grant Program, a critical piece of the Shapiro administration’s emphasis on workforce development.
The Pennsylvania Senate’s Labor & Industry Committee chair, Devlin Robinson, is himself an example of hard work. The Allegheny County Republican enlisted in the U.S. Marines after 9/11, earned an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh, and founded Veterans Medical Technology before his 2020 election. He currently chairs the Senate’s Community College Caucus and Economy, Business and Jobs Caucus.
His Democratic co-chair, Sen. John Kane, has firsthand knowledge of labor as the former five-term business manager of Plumbers Local 690. Kane recently cheered Gov. Josh Shapiro’s new workforce development plan and co-sponsored Senate legislation allowing cost-of-living pension adjustments for the state’s retired public school and state employees.
Earlier this year, Philadelphia Democratic Rep. Jason Dawkins became majority chair of the state House of Representatives’ Labor & Industry Committee. The five-term lawmaker recently celebrated new infrastructure funding and co-sponsored legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15, expand worker’s compensation and subsidize apprenticeship training.
His Republican co-chair, six-term Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, is a vocal supporter of technical education and the construction industry. He serves on the executive council for the Lehigh Career and Technical Institute and is a member of the Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority and the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Board.
Elected to lead the state’s Democrats in 2022, state Sen. Sharif Street is counting on the labor vote as he faces his first major test in this fall’s elections. While shoring up financing for Pennsylvania races, the senator, a second-generation LIUNA member, is staying busy in the Senate: He currently serves as the ranking Democratic chair for the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee and the Democratic co-chair of the bicameral Crime Prevention Caucus.
Confronting risky blazes and newly identified dangers from cancer-causing firefighting foam, the commonwealth’s firefighters depend on strong political representation from Robert Brooks and Mike Bresnan.
Brooks, a Bethlehem firefighter, has held numerous leadership roles with the Pennsylvania Professional FireFighters Association, becoming president in 2021. He has championed legislation addressing cancer risks and served on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition team.
As president of Local 22, Bresnan is the high-profile union voice for 5,000 Philadelphia firefighters and paramedics. He made headlines by publicly endorsing Donald Trump for president in the majority-Democratic city and more recently fought the city’s pandemic vaccine mandate.
A year ago, James Reilley was elected business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 542. Reilley had previously served 30 years as a business agent and 15 as president of the Philadelphia union, which represents heavy equipment operators and engineers for the construction, pipeline and environmental industries. Reilley now manages a busy organization with a robust apprenticeship and training program as well as political advocacy around prevailing wages, combatting wage and tax theft, and responsible contracting ordinances.
As business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66, Thomas C. Melisko Jr. represents the 7,500 member workers and apprentices in Western Pennsylvania and adjacent areas of Ohio. Melisko, who is based in Pittsburgh, recently served on the transportation and infrastructure subcommittee for Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition team. He also leads union advocacy and guides recruitment efforts, fundraisers, community partnerships and education for the busy local, which has active scholarship and training programs.
Veteran labor arbitrator and employment attorney James Darby chairs the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. With the National Academy of Arbitrators, he is also analyzing arbitrators’ role in police officer discipline. Darby has previously worked as counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, as a salary arbitrator for Major League Baseball and in the administrations of former Gov. Robert Casey Sr. and then-Auditor General (and current senator) Bob Casey. He is also a board member of the St. John’s School of Law’s Center for Labor and Employment Law.
Former Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera currently champions equity and opportunity as president of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, which serves a historically disadvantaged student population. Rivera, who assumed his current role three years ago, celebrated a 97% job placement rate for Stevens’ most recent graduating class. The native Philadelphian was recently appointed to the state Board of Education, where he chairs the Board’s Council of Higher Education; he also served on then-President-Elect Joe Biden’s educational transition team.
In four years at the helm of Pittsburgh Technical College, Alicia Harvey-Smith has debuted the PTC Education Foundation, launched the college’s first endowment campaign and cemented educational partnerships with several universities. She also recently published her sixth book, “Higher Education on the Brink: Reimagining Strategic Enrollment Management in Colleges and Universities.” The Pittsburgh Technology Council recognized Harvey-Smith as its 2021 CEO of the Year; she is also a Pittsburgh Smart 50 honoree for the second straight year.
This past March, Daniel Vicente made history when he was elected to the international executive board of the United Auto Workers in its first-ever direct elections. Vicente, a Philadelphia native and former U.S. Marine, got involved with Local 644 as a Pottstown machine operator; he served as recording secretary and vice chair of the bargaining committee and championed international direct elections in a 2021 referendum. As Region 9 director, Vicente now represents workers throughout the mid-Atlantic – fighting for higher wages, cost-of-living adjustments and anti-corruption measures.
As law enforcement faces a recruitment crisis, Pennsylvania State Troopers Association President David Kennedy has sounded the alarm, rallying support from Harrisburg and beyond for measures to reverse the officer shortage. Kennedy, who joined the force in 1995, is a vocal advocate for his organization’s 4,300 police officers, both active and retired. He has called for increased state funding for recruitment, training and resources and – in the wake of several shootings of on-duty officers – has drawn renewed attention to the risks police face.
From Pittsburgh to Pottstown to Philadelphia, the commonwealth’s hotels and eateries are bustling once again – thanks partly to the efforts of Ben Fileccia, a senior vice president at the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association. As he supports an industry still recovering from the pandemic amd its economic aftershocks, the Havertown-bred hospitality veteran is focusing on workforce development through initiatives like scholarships through the PRLA’s foundation and the ProStart culinary education program, currently in 42 Pennsylvania high schools.
As business manager and financial secretary for the Pennsylvania Ironworkers Local 3, Greg Bernarding has ensured that his nearly 2,000 members have kept working and receiving union benefits throughout the pandemic – and can reap the opportunities of post-pandemic infrastructure investment. Bernarding, who has served as a trustee of the Local 3 pension program, is also responsible for operations at the union’s Pittsburgh apprenticeship center, training the next generation of Western Pennsylvania ironworkers.
For over 20 years at the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Executive Director Ryan Hyde has helped disabled Pennsylvanians to secure employment and maintain independence. Under his leadership, the office – a division of the state Department of Labor and Industry – was recently awarded a $14 million Disability Innovation Fund grant. Hyde also launched the Municipalities and Youth Work Program, which has partnered with local municipalities to offer paid work-based learning to 750 high school students in 48 counties.
Paul Anthony, a 38-year member of IBEW Local 375, has served as its business manager and financial secretary since 2013. He heads a 1,000-member union representing workers in electrical construction, public works, communications and power generation throughout the Lehigh Valley. Anthony also oversees labor relations and strengthens relationships with businesses, customers and local communities. He is an executive committee member for the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Lehigh Valley Economic Corporation, as well as a board member of the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board.
Thirty-year union veteran Michael Stanton currently serves as business manager of Boilermakers Local 154 in Pittsburgh, where he advocates for workers in the Allegheny region’s coal, steel and petrochemical jobs. He is a vocal proponent of his constituency’s traditional energy industries and the opportunity they provide, using his political clout – including a recent stint on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s energy advisory transition committee – to combat what Stanton views as a rising tide of anti-fossil fuel sentiment.
Jim Cassidy looks out for the people keeping the drafts out of Allegheny County buildings – and keeping heating and cooling bills down year-round. Cassidy is the business manager and financial secretary at Insulators Local 2, the 120-year-old Pittsburgh chapter of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Union. In this world, he oversees an active apprenticeship training center for future thermal insulator and asbestos workers, while preserving union benefits and emphasizing his constituency’s important role in energy efficiency.
After being nominated to the state Civil Service Commission by then-Gov. Tom Wolf, Maria Donatucci was subsequently named chair and spearheaded the reopening of the commission’s regional offices. Donatucci previously served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where she chaired the Philadelphia delegation and championed labor interests – including sponsoring bills around equal wages and paid sick leave. She is a longtime member of the Lions Club, which honored her with its Melvin Jones Award.
After tussling with the Allegheny County Port Authority over contract terms and vaccine mandates that saw dozens of workers fired, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 President Ross Nicotero most recently took on Pittsburgh Regional Transit over its proposed bus overhaul. Nicotero is calling for higher pay and bonuses, an end to vaccine requirements and better working conditions. His clout derives in no small part from the ongoing driver shortage – an issue Nicotero is pressing policymakers to address through broad-based recruitment efforts.
Philadelphia’s Local 8 of IATSE – the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees – is a family tradition for Michael Barnes, a third-generation member who recently stepped down after 30 years as president and business agent. Barnes currently serves as first international vice president and stagecraft department director for the 130-year-old union, which advocates on behalf of 168,000 North American members in theater, movie, TV, concert and trade show jobs. He’s now readying the fourth generation: Barnes’ three children are also IATSE members.
At the Philadelphia Youth Network, nonprofit veteran Wendy-Anne Roberts-Johnson and attorney Debra Friedman ensure young people access the resources they need to explore and train for meaningful careers.
Roberts-Johnson, PYN’s president, is a social worker responsible for an expanding suite of youth workforce development programs. She also chairs the board of Education Plus Health, a nonprofit advocating for school-based health centers.
Friedman, the network’s board chair, also serves on its Executive and Human Capital Committees. At Cozen O’Connor, she is a member who works on compliance with federal and state employment laws, affirmative action and DEI issues.
Just two years into his tenure as CEO at Partner4Work, Robert Cherry celebrated in June when his public-private workforce partnership was chosen as one of five national anchors for the White House Workforce Talent Hub Initiative. On top of Partner4Work’s $26 million budget, Cherry will now administer federal resources toward the organization’s apprenticeship, technical and career programs. He has also increased Partner4Work’s focus on renewable energy jobs in collaboration with Sustainable Pittsburgh, which was tapped for Jobs for the Future’s green energy workforce initiative.
As CEO of Philadelphia Works, the city’s workforce development agency, H. Patrick Clancy helps 40,000 residents each year to find economic opportunity. In 2023, the highest-profile of these was in his own office – longtime operations chief Patricia Blumenauer, who was promoted as the agency’s first female COO. Clancy supervises a $65 million budget and collaborations with local unions, businesses and institutions – including the Community College of Philadelphia, where he also serves on the board of directors.
As president of Communications Workers of America Local 13000, James J. Gardler leads a Philadelphia-headquartered union with locations at both ends of the state. He also co-chairs its political action committee, oversees its community service fund and upholds its 22 contracts on behalf of 4,700 members in industries as diverse as media, health care, airlines, manufacturing and law enforcement. Gardler’s experience also includes responsibility for CWA’s National Defense Fund Oversight Committee; in addition, he is secretary-treasurer of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO.
Tom McIntyre is a well-known fixture on Pittsburgh’s labor scene. He serves as business manager and financial secretary of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 5, the storied 125-year-old electricians’ organization where he is a four-decade member and has held numerous leadership roles. McIntyre is also the longtime secretary/treasurer for the Pittsburgh Building and Construction Trades Council and a board member of the Joint Apprenticeship Trust Fund and Labor Management Trust Fund.
Versatile employment law specialist Charles Curley both prosecutes and defends individuals and businesses in labor-related matters throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and provides training and counsel on such matters as avoiding employee lawsuits. He is the managing partner at his Philadelphia-based firm, Curley & Rothman, where he personally handles every client and has earned a reputation for forthright assessment of a case’s viability. His areas of specialty include harassment and discrimination, wage violations, disability claims and commercial litigation.
Maureen May recently celebrated a significant victory for her constituency when the commonwealth joined the Nursing Licensure Compact, a multistate agreement allowing out-of-state nurses to ease Pennsylvania’s estimated 30% nurse vacancy rate. May, a longtime nurse at Temple University, leads the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals, an organization made up of nearly 10,000 worker-members who are essential parts of the commonwealth’s fastest-growing health union. She advocates in Harrisburg and supports workers across the state in a quest for better pay, benefits and working conditions.
The city’s Department of Labor is headed by Basil Merenda, an attorney who previously served as deputy secretary for safety and labor management relations with the state Department of Labor and Industry. Merenda now directs the Living Wage Working Group along with divisions for employee relations, labor relations, worker protections and labor standards.
Overseeing that Office of Labor Standards is Perritti DiVirgilio, a Northeast Philadelphian whose role involves safeguarding employee protections around issues like wage compliance. DiVirgilio’s worker advocacy began when, as a construction worker, he became his union’s business agent.
From the commonwealth’s big cities to its rolling valleys – from coal mines and steel plants to robotics labs and hospitals – Pennsylvania’s workforce development boards are vital nexuses between employees, communities and local economies. These collaborations are orchestrated by dedicated executive directors, who identify gaps and opportunities in the employment landscape and address them through training programs, outreach initiatives and strategic partnerships.
Here, a look at the people making those connections happen.
Collaborating with employers as varied as FedEx and ski resorts, Nancy Dischinat has celebrated opportunity throughout the Lehigh Valley for 25 years. Dischinat is the longtime executive director of the Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board, partnering with PACareerLink and local stakeholders to coordinate job-focused training and apprenticeships, unemployment compensation assistance and career counseling. She also works closely with municipalities and policymakers to further the region’s economic development.
For a decade, Patricia Lenahan has headed the Luzerne/Schuylkill Workforce Investment Board, facilitating the complementary needs of both job seekers and their employers. As executive director, she administers $10 million in annual government funding to support job training and career awareness for the regional workforce. In addition to maintaining close relationships with local chambers of commerce and community groups, Lenahan serves on the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association board and the Job Corps Advisory Council.
Based in Harrisburg, Jesse McCree oversees the commonwealth’s second-largest workforce development board, South Central PA Works. In this role, he oversees a 20-strong team and $16 million annually in training and career programs, as well as six PA CareerLink sites that assist job seekers across an eight-county region. McCree, who holds a master’s in public administration, previously worked in government relations for the Pennsylvania Development Association.
As executive director of Advance Central PA, Erica Mulberger supports a private sector-led workforce development board and a nine-county board of local elected officials. She is also responsible for operations and strategy for six PA CareerLink locations. Mulberger, who serves on the PA Workforce Development Association board, was among 25 inaugural participants in the recent Results for America State and Local Workforce Fellowship program; the resulting analysis will help improve the regional job ecosystem.
Last year, Anna Ramos became executive director of the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board, where she oversees programs aimed at recruiting, training and retaining a skilled local workforce. Ramos is part of the coalition behind Career Ready Lancaster!, a digital resource connecting locals with jobs, and also serves on the board of the Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County. She previously was the Workforce Development Board’s COO and has held roles at PA CareerLink and the Lancaster Chamber.
The rural labor force of Cameron, Elk, Jefferson, McKean and Potter counties is shepherded by Pam Streich, executive director of Workforce Solutions for North Central PA. Under her leadership, the organization secured $4 million in grants to bolster job training and meet the needs of local employers. Streich, who was part of the first cohort of the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association's Policy and Advocacy Fellowship program, serves on the board of the North Central PA Regional Planning and Development Commission.
Unionized coal miners, manufacturing and health care workers and corrections officers throughout the Northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada count on Chuck Knisell for political and professional advocacy before Washington lawmakers. Knisell is the international District 2 vice president for the United Mine Workers of America, one of the continent’s most diverse labor consortiums. He is also the longtime president of UMWA’s Local 2300, representing nearly 1,000 active and retired workers at the Cumberland mine.
When companies want advice on union negotiations, or managers need training on the legal issues that crop up in human resources, they often turn to Craig Brooks, who oversees the employment law division at the Pittsburgh firm of Houston Harbaugh. Brooks concentrates on advising and defending management – in court, before government agencies and on a variety of employee matters, from discrimination and harassment claims to privacy and defamation issues.
The workforce needs of Pennsylvania’s far northwest, Capital region and Lehigh Valley are in the capable hands of Jack Lee, Jim Irwin and David Gash, who respectively head the AFL-CIO-affiliated Erie-Crawford Central Labor Council, Lehigh Valley Labor Council and Harrisburg Region Central Labor Council.
Lee is a former business manager of Roofers 210, where he also coordinated apprenticeship training. He is also currently a Summit Township supervisor in charge of land development.
Irwin, a longtime member of AFSCME District Council 13, additionally serves as the labor representative on the board of the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley.
Gash represents a six-county constituency in the commonwealth’s political and geographic center, crusading on behalf of pro-union political candidates and a more inclusive, equitable social landscape for labor.
Fran McLaughlin is the business manager and secretary-treasurer for IUPAT District Council 21, a local affiliated with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. His membership includes some 6,000 workers in the finishing trades – like glaziers, drywall finishers and glass workers – throughout Central and Northeast Pennsylvania, metropolitan Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware. McLaughlin’s energetic commitment supports a union known for its abundant member resources, apprenticeship program and extensive community involvement.
Fifth-generation Philadelphian Nicole Kligerman oversees the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, organizing and advocating for house cleaners, nannies and caregivers. She led the successful effort to pass the 2019 Philadelphia Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, a slate of landmark labor protections that helped earn her that year’s Philadelphia Award. Previously, Kligerman organized hospital workers with the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals and led the “Sanctuary City” campaign on behalf of undocumented people at New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia.
At Roofers Local 30, Shawn McCullough looks out for the workers who keep Pennsylvanians dry. He serves as the business manager for a Philadelphia-based union whose membership includes more than 1,300 roofers and structural waterproofing workers in a five-state mid-Atlantic region – a branch of the 22,000-strong United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers. Under McCullough, Local 30 is known for its comprehensive training and apprenticeship program, and energetic local political activism.
At the Pennsylvania Corrections Officers Association, President John Eckenrode has led advocacy on behalf of officer benefits, including legislation extending early pension withdrawal exemptions to local and state officers. Eckenrode, who started his corrections career in 1999, has also served on the association’s Emergency Response Team and held board leadership positions with several state correctional institutions. A decorated U.S. Marine veteran, he recently served on the transition committees for Gov. Josh Shapiro and Treasurer Stacy Garrity.
Aspiring craft laborers from across Southeastern Pennsylvania connect with opportunity through Devan Roberts, who serves as the apprenticeship coordinator for the Laborers’ District Council Apprenticeship Program. Roberts works closely with training experts from four local unions to coordinate education that combines classroom instruction and hands-on experience. In this role, Roberts also carries out the mission to diversify Philadelphia’s workforce with greater representation of women and minorities – a key goal of LDC boss Ryan Boyer.
Nancy Wilson and Kimberly Andrews serve as regional directors for the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia areas, respectively, at the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency. They lead teams dedicated to investigating claims of unfair labor practices and protecting laborers’ right to organize for better pay and working conditions.
Wilson, a 35-year veteran of the NLRB, assumed her current role in 2015 after working in Newark, Winston-Salem and Atlanta. Andrews, a Philadelphia native, is an attorney and former AFL-CIO community organizer who joined the NLRB in 2009.
Kevin Smallwood serves as the northeastern region district director for the federal Office of Labor Management Standards, a division of the U.S. Department of Labor. Smallwood supervises work in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh field offices that includes a criminal and civil enforcement program on behalf of the OLMS, an agency tasked with protecting union freedom and activity through oversight of collective bargaining agreements and union and labor-management reports. Smallwood, a Penn State graduate, started his career with the OLMS in 2006 as an investigator.
People often recognize Dodie Amigh by the signature red jacket she wears as the director of SkillsUSA Pennsylvania – the state chapter of a national program that cultivates leadership skills in technical and trade students. With enthusiasm so infectious that her husband became a SkillsUSA adviser and her daughter a two-time state officer, Amigh has shepherded decades of Pennsylvania teens to national honors with the organization. She was also a longtime interior decorating instructor at the Greater Altoona Career & Technology Center.
Workforce development veteran Shannon Munro heads the division of that name at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, where she has worked for a dozen years – and which just received $2 million in federal funds to bolster labor force development programs. Munro manages training and employment partnerships with the college’s Plastics Innovation and Resource Center, Apprenticeship Center, Clean Energy Center and at Penn College at Wellsboro. Munro was previously the executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation.
The lighter side of labor is served up weekly by Joseph Dougherty Jr. and Joe Krause, co-hosts and creators of PhillyLabor Radio. Every Saturday at 7 p.m., workers across the region tune into 860 AM for “Saturday Night Live,” the flagship program of Dougherty’s pro-labor media platform. The pair trades quips and insights with Pat Eiding, the longtime former head of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO (and, occasionally, with the former IBEW boss and Democratic power player John Dougherty, no relation to Joe).
Mail service may be older than the commonwealth itself, but as head of the Pennsylvania Postal Workers Union, Mike Stephenson keeps the state’s mail workforce up to date. This year, he’s cheered the conversion of his workers’ fleet to electric vehicles, a move that improves air quality while saving money the union would rather spend on wages and benefits. Stephenson has steered his constituency through the post-pandemic surge in mail volume while fighting to preserve overtime pay and prioritizing recruitment and retention.
Last year, Sheila Ireland assumed leadership of Philadelphia OIC, an august workforce development nonprofit helping 1,500 Philadelphians annually to find better opportunities. Ireland previously managed a $270 million budget as deputy secretary for workforce development at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Her experience also includes overseeing workforce development for the City of Philadelphia and serving as the founding director of the University City District’s West Philadelphia skills initiative.
John Mains serves as a field representative for BAC Local 9, the Pittsburgh-based chapter of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, a 160-year-old labor union. In this role, Mains recruits and serves as a liaison on behalf of members throughout his region. He represents a membership of laborers comprising not only bricklayers but also stonemasons, tile and marble craftspeople, restoration specialists and others in the construction industry.
Elaine Farndale helps Penn State students make sense of the contemporary employer-employee relationship, the modern service economy and the evolution of organized labor. The British-trained scholar of human resources directs the university’s 80-year-old School of Labor and Employment Relations, an institution directly connected to Penn State’s land grant mission. Farndale is also the founding director of the Penn State Center for International Human Resource Studies.
John Tkach is executive director of the Keystone Development Partnership, an 18-year-old nonprofit established by the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO to create local workforce development initiatives. Tkach oversees a Pittsburgh- and Harrisburg-based team that coordinates apprenticeships and training programs aimed at meeting the needs of local employers. In this role, he collaborates with a range of stakeholders, including unions, manufacturers, public agencies and community organizations.
Guiding the next generation of commonwealth craftspeople is Marc Ferrari, who serves as the apprenticeship coordinator of the Pennsylvania Laborers Training Center. He oversees operations at the 8,000-square-foot facility in Saxonburg, which offers 50 courses in skills ranging from blueprint reading and scaffold building to concrete and first aid. In addition, Ferrari promotes the benefits of both education and a union career through events and collaboration with the locals affiliated with the Laborers’ District Council.
Employment litigation and labor relations specialist Maria Greco Danaher is a shareholder at Ogletree Deakins in Pittsburgh and the author of “Give Your Company a Fighting Chance: An HR Guide to Understanding and Preventing Workplace Violence.” Danaher, a mediator and arbitrator, counsels human resources departments and oversees training for both union and non-union employers on topics like anti-discrimination and workplace violence. Previously, as in-house counsel for a Fortune 100 company, she handled national labor and employment cases.
Adam Lazarchak is on a self-declared crusade to “dispel the stigma of Vo-Tech, and debunk the university-for-all mentality” as director of the Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School. Lazarchak, who joined in 2000 as an instructor of commercial art, recently launched the school’s professional skills certification for high school seniors in partnership with Northampton Community College. He is also guiding expansions of course programs – including a new electric vehicle offering – and student capacity. Lazarchak serves on the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s Education and Talent Supply Committee.
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