GOP lawmakers ponder Labor Day participation
In this Sept. 2, 2008 photo, spectators watch the Wausau East marching band make its way down Third Avenue during the Labor Day Parade in Wausau, Wis. With labor rights still a prickly subject in Wisconsin, Republican state Sen. Pam Galloway knows she might be as unwelcome as rain at the upcoming Labor Day parade in Wausau. It’s the first Labor Day since Republican Gov. Scott Walker launched what Democrats called an assault on labor, and GOP lawmakers who supported Walker’s efforts to curb certain collective-bargaining rights are treading carefully. Many are asking themselves whether it’s politically savvy to attend an event that honors labor, especially since their presence could attract the sort of vocal protesters who continue to hound Walker even at non-political events.
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.
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 nonpolitical 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.