WASHINGTON -- A group of Wisconsin union officials has reversed its decision barring GOP politicians from marching in a local Labor Day parade, saying everyone would be allowed "because we don't want to have community groups and school bands affected." Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), one of the affected politicians, said he will now likely attend the parade in Wausau, which falls within his district.
"We made alternate plans, and he’s walking in a different Labor Day parade in Merrill in the morning," said Duffy's chief of staff, Brandon Moody. "But the short answer is yes, the congressman is going to try to make it, and we’re moving things around so he can attend both."
The Marathon County Central Labor Council, which sponsors the Wausau parade, includes some 30 local unions.
In a statement issued late Tuesday, council president Randy Radtke said that while Republicans would be allowed, they should feel "ashamed" to attend because of their records on workers' rights. He singled out the federal and state lawmakers representing Wausau -- Rep. Duffy, state Sen. Pam Galloway (R-Wausau) and state Rep. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) -- as well as the state's Republican governor, Scott Walker.
"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," said Radtke. "With the track records that Pam Galloway, Sean Duffy, Scott Walker and Jerry Petrowski have all put together this year, they should be ashamed to even show their faces at a Labor Day parade."
Radtke initially said the council had decided not to invite the GOP politicians because they had "openly attacked workers' rights or stood idly by while their political party fought to strip public workers of their right to collectively bargain."
Duffy, who has marched in the Wausau parade in the past, was planning to do so this year. When his staff initially called to register a spot, they were told in "colorful language that no Republicans were being allowed to participate," according to Moody.
The reversal by Radtke comes after Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple -- who identifies as an independent -- put out a statement saying the city would not co-sponsor an event that bans individuals based on party affiliation.
"The City is a co-sponsor of the Labor Day parade event, because we provided the payment for the insurance premium for the event, and we agreed to erect a stage and provide city services at no cost to the Marathon County Central Labor Council," said Tipple. "The banning of a political party from participation at any event co-sponsored by the City is against public policy and not in the best interest of all the citizens of the City of Wausau. And therefore, we encourage the event organizer to invite all interested parties, or reimburse the city for other costs."
In February, the 14 Democratic members of the Wisconsin state Senate left the state to deny their GOP colleagues a quorum and prevent them from pushing forward Gov. Walker's controversial budget repair bill, which stripped most collective bargaining rights from public employees. Through a last-minute budgetary maneuver, Republicans were able to pass the measure. All but one GOP state senator voted for it.