Milwaukee As a Republican, state Sen. Pam Galloway knows she might be as unwelcome as rain at this weekend’s Labor Day parade in Wisconsin. The threat of possible hecklers, though, won’t keep her from the event.
With labor rights a prickly subject in some states, many Republican lawmakers have to decide whether it’s politically savvy to attend Labor Day events. Community gatherings usually let politicians meet and shake hands with voters who are in a celebratory mood. But the feeling could be different this year, when crowds might be especially vocal in expressing their discontent over Republican moves to restrict labor rights.
“I’m sure there will be people who won’t be happy to see me there,” Galloway told The Associated Press. “But you know, I have a good many supporters, too.”
In Wisconsin, some legislators who supported Gov. Scott Walker’s moves to curb collective-bargaining rights are treading carefully. Walker himself won’t attend any Labor Day event. A spokesman said the governor will spend the day with his family as he traditionally does.
Labor groups are still fiercely angry about Wisconsin’s new law, under which public employees lost most collective-bargaining rights and must contribute more to their health care and pensions. The measure prompted an unprecedented wave of protests at the Capitol, and two Republican state senators were recalled for supporting it. Chanting protesters continue to hound Walker even at non-political events.
In Ohio, where a new law this year also restricted collective-bargaining rights for more than 350,000 public workers. Gov. John Kasich planned to issue a proclamation honoring Labor Day, a spokesman said, but he wasn’t scheduled to go out among the crowds at any Labor Day parades or picnics.
One labor group in Wausau still bears a grudge over Wisconsin’s new law. The Marathon County Labor Council tried to ban Galloway and other Republican lawmakers from Monday’s parade, but the group eventually backed down after the city’s mayor threatened not to cover the event’s insurance costs or other expenses.
However, even after the Labor Council reversed itself, President Randy Radtke took a swipe at Galloway, Walker and U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy for taking “anti-worker positions.”
They “should be ashamed to even show their faces at a Labor Day parade,” he said in a statement. “... We will let everyone march and hope these Republican politicians finally take away some lessons about what Labor Day really means.”
One labor official liked the idea of banning Republicans from Labor Day events.
“Do you think the American Legion would let Jane Fonda in a Memorial Day parade? There isn’t a chance in hell that would happen,” said Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union. “How is that different than labor saying ‘Duffy, don’t walk in our parade?’”
But that attitude wasn’t going to deter the congressman, spokesman Brandon Moody said. Duffy still planned to attend the Wausau parade this year, as he did last year, Moody said.
“Is he concerned that the level of political discourse continues to devolve? Yes,” Moody said. “But this is a nice family event and he’s going to treat it like that.”