A Wisconsin labor official has retreated from banning Republican lawmakers from a Labor Day parade in Wausau after the mayor said his town would not pay for the event unless GOP officials could step along, too.
Marathon County Labor Council President Randy Radtke said last week that Republican politicians would be barred from marching in the parade his council sponsors because the GOP had pushed a law curbing collective-bargaining rights for Wisconsin public workers in February and March.
Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple, who claims no affiliation with either party, responded this week that the labor council would have to reimburse the city up to $2,000 for the cost if organizers excluded Republican politicians.
So now, Radtke has announced the council's decision to allow Republican politicians to march after all, although he said the council had countless offers to help pay for parade costs.
"We didn't start this fight in Wisconsin, but were responding to anti-worker positions and policies supported by local Republican politicians, including those who have complained about not being invited," Radtke said.
"Just like we'd hoped, our decision has stimulated a great debate in our community about the meaning of Labor Day," Radtke said.
"But because we don't want to wind up having community groups and school bands affected in the process, we will let everyone march and hope these Republican politicians finally take away some lessons about what Labor Day really means. We know their actions and voting records speak more loudly than waving at any parade."
Radtke's claim that the orginal ban was intended to propel debate about the meaning of Labor Day rings a bit hollow. His original statements were more partisan than patriotic in the latest chapter of the political fallout from Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s reining in collective-bargaining rights for public employees to cut the state budget.
"Usually they've been in the parade, but it seems like they only want to stand with us one day a year, and the other 364 days they don't really care," Radtke said last week.
"It should come as no surprise that organizers choose not to invite elected officials who have openly attacked worker's rights or stood idly by while their political party fought to strip public workers of their right to collectively bargain," said Radtke, whose council includes about 30 local labor unions.
"When Scott Walker leveled his assault on workers and workers rights, the local Republicans followed in lock step with him," Radtke said last week.
However, during the ensuing debate, one of the Republicans who objected to the council's ban did deliver a lesson on Labor Day. State Sen. State Sen. Pam Galloway declared: "I'm a worker, you're a worker, we're not represented by unions. It's not appropriate for the citizens of the city of Wausau to be deprived of contact with their elected representatives. When I go to these parades, I try to talk with people before the parade actually starts."
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