Pittsburgh Labor Unions Turn Monday Parade Into Pro-Obama 'March for Labor,' Exclude 'Hostile' Pols
In late July, in a move with some similarities to what yours truly has noted in Wausau, Wis. this week (here, here, and here), the Allegheny County Labor Council of the AFL-CIO in Pittsburgh declined to allow the Steel City's lone Republican candidate for City Council the ability to march in its Labor Day parade.
The differences between Wausau and Pittsburgh are that: a) being picky about who can march is a Pittsburgh parade tradition; b) the Labor Council dubiously claims that it underwrites the event (the city of Wausau has always paid for theirs); c) The Pittsburgh parade has since morphed into a highly partisan "March for Jobs."
First, here are excerpts from Bob Bauder's July 30 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review coverage:
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No GOP allowed in Labor Day event
This year's Labor Day parade will go on without the lone Republican candidate for Pittsburgh City Council.
Joshua Wander, 40, of Squirrel Hill said the Allegheny County Labor Council, AFL-CIO, has refused his request to march in the September parade that will wind through Downtown. Wander will oppose Corey O'Connor, son of the late Mayor Bob O'Connor, in November for the District 5 seat being vacated by Councilman Doug Shields.
"Many candidates do march," Wander said. "I not only wanted to walk as a candidate, but I also wanted to walk for the Republican Party."
Labor council President Jack Shea said parade participation is an invitation-only affair.
"Those are our rules," Shea said. "It's our parade. We pay for it."
... "Those who are not in tune with the working class, we do not invite," Shea said. "(Wander) has to be invited, and he's not going to be invited by me."
... Organizers of both the Memorial Day parade and the city's St. Patrick's Day parade said they permit politicians of both parties to march as long as they conform with parade rules, which essentially prohibit them from campaigning.
"If you invite politicians, you can't pick and choose which one," said Jim McGinley, organizer of the Memorial Day parade. "If you allow one in, you have to allow them all in."
... Nadine Brnilovich, Pittsburgh's Special Events Committee coordinator, said the city is not involved with planning or organizing parades and has no input in the selection of participants. The city, she said, issues a permit and provides police and emergency medical service for the events. Permit fees cost $3,125 for larger parades.
At first blush, Bauder's headline appears to be an overreach, but in the article, he cites a Republican leader who asserts that "Jack Shea usually finds ways of stopping us from being there, but his refusal is within the law." However, the next item I will cite contradicts the "(absolutely) no GOP" assertion.
As to the cost, it's one thing for the city to charge a nominal fee for a parade which is non-partisan, but it's quite another to have the same fee for a politically charged rally. Shoot, $3,125 may barely cover the pay and benefits of Ms. Brnilovich's administrative time devoted to the event.
And yes, in a recent development (the July 30 item has no "March for Jobs" reference), this year's event will be a politically charged rally, as senior politics writer Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post details from her perch in Washington:
Pittsburgh Unions Turn Labor Day Parade Into 'March For Jobs,' Shut Out Anti-Union Politicians
Unions in Pittsburgh are bringing a special focus on jobs and the unemployed to their Labor Day parade this year, dubbing the event a "March for Jobs." Organizers expect more than 70,000 people to march in Monday's event, but they've made clear to politicians perceived to be hostile to the labor movement that they will be turned away.
"This year we are inviting union and non-union, laid-off, unemployed and underemployed workers and their families to march with us on the eve of President Obama’s much anticipated announcement of a jobs program aimed at putting America back to work," said Jack Shea, president of the Allegheny County (Pa.) Labor Council.
"We will be marching to show President Obama we are behind all serious efforts to create jobs and encourage him to pull out all the stops by putting the power of the federal government fully behind an aggressive jobs program," Shea added.
... Pennsylvania AFL-CIO spokesman Marty Marks said that only friends of the labor movement, regardless of political party, are invited to march in the Pittsburgh Labor Day parade. The local labor council reimburses the city for parade-related expenses.
About six Republican politicians were invited to march this year, along with a larger number of Democratic officials. Invited guests include U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R), U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D) and state Sen. John Pippe (R-Allegheny).
Two prominent GOP politicians who were not invited to march were U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and Gov. Tom Corbett. When asked what the labor council would do if they said they wished to participate, Marks replied, "We would politely decline their participation."
... Marks said that while the Labor Day event always features unemployed workers marching with their affiliated unions, this is the first year there will be a special place for the unemployed in the parade to emphasize the need for job creation.
Mr. Marks clearly doesn't appreciate how the exclusion of GOP Governor Corbett contradicts his stated interest in "job creation." Under Corbett, the Keystone State has added 53,300 seasonally adjusted jobs during the first seven months of this year. During Democrat Ed Rendell's entire final year, the state added 64,000 jobs. During Rendell's second term, the state lost 140,000 jobs. Metro Pittsburgh has added 13,400 jobs this year while adding 16,800 during all of last year and losing 12,600 during Rendell's second term. Pennsylvania under Corbett hasn't done as well as Texas under Rick Perry or Ohio under John Kasich, but it's moving in a more positive direction.
Let's also note for the record that Ms. Terkel's "70,000" number refers to "marchers." How about spectators (y'know, this is or least was supposed to be a parade)? At least last year, there weren't too many:
Economy dampens turnout at Pittsburgh's Labor Day parade
Tens of thousands of Labor Day Parade participants marched yesterday for blocks without a single onlooker to cheer them on.
Spectator turnout for the annual parade Downtown was heavy in some spots -- Grant Street, for instance -- but sparse in others. And some participants were not surprised.
"There's a lot of unemployment right now," said Dan Gilman, 29, of Fox Chapel, who watched the parade pass on the Boulevard of the Allies with his wife and two young children. "If the economy were booming, everybody would be out here celebrating. But a lot of people are disenchanted."
... The parade ended at 12:30 p.m. Ten minutes later, the streets were deserted except for a handful of city workers breaking down the viewing stage near the United Steelworkers Union Building.
This year, who knows? But similarly low turnout would seem to indicate that any claim of widespread sympathy for the union's parade-hijacking agenda has little support.
It's more than a little surprising that what the Labor Council has done to the Steel City's parade this year hasn't gained any media coverage outside the Steel city -- and very little within it.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.