A Wisconsin labor council that sponsors the Labor Day parade in Wausau is giving Republican lawmakers their walking papers — in the form of banning them from walking in the parade this year — saying they are unfriendly to union workers.
The action is the latest salvo in the political fallout from Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s reining in collective-bargaining rights for public employees to cut the state budget. Republicans supported the measure, while Democrats were so opposed that several senators fled the state to avoid voting on it.
The controversy over the proposals in February and March sparked a summer of discontented recall elections in which Republicans ultimately retained control of the Senate in the Badger State, where they also hold the Governor’s Mansion and the state Assembly.
"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," said Randy Radtke, president of the Marathon County Central Labor Council, which includes about 30 local unions.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
, Radtke noted that Labor Day is intended to celebrate what the labor movement has provided for working men and women, such as a 40-hour work week, child labor protection, and a safe working environment, according to the Journal-Sentinel.
"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," Radtke said.
"When Scott Walker leveled his assault on workers and workers rights, the local Republicans followed in lock step with him," Radtke said.
Republican State Sen. State Sen. Pam Galloway pushed back against the ban, according to WSAW-TV
, saying: "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."
Republican Congressman Sean Duffy’s office also criticized the ban during the weekend, issuing a statement saying, "Having walked in this parade in past years, Congressman Duffy was hoping that for a moment, we could set our differences aside and simply have some fun in a family-friendly event."
WSAW-TV also quoted the Republican Party of Lincoln County as saying that the parade’s tradition now will end over "petty and short sighted anger toward legally elected officials."
Republicans hope to resolve the conflict with Wausau city officials before Labor Day, which is Monday, WSAW reported.
The parade’s grand marshal, by the way, is slated to be a Democrat: State Rep. Donna Seidel of Wausau.
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