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The Ugliest Face of Unionism

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I'm sure there are worse examples, but it's hard to imagine many as crass and thuggish as this story powerfully recounted by the JS's Dan Bice. Da union puts it's agenda ahead of honoring the heroism of fellow firefighters, starkly exposing it's priorities and real values. Bice reports:

These days, almost anything can get caught in the blender of Wisconsin's union politics.

It can even happen to a Fourth of July parade float honoring firefighters and cops killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

"Back then, the public wasn't saying, 'How sad for the union' - they were saying, 'Those were firefighters who died,'" said Matt Gorniak, a Milwaukee-area fire lieutenant who is the driving force behind the float. "That's what this is about. It's above union, nonunion."

Or at least it should be.

The same float - a re-enactment of the famous photo of three firefighters raising the American flag amid the rubble of the World Trade Center - created a rush of emotions as it passed through three parade routes in Milwaukee County back in 2002. Crowds spontaneously rose to their feet, offering thunderous applause.

With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks coming up later this year, Gorniak and his church's youth group decided to revive the float in Racine's upcoming Independence Day parade, one of the biggest in the area.

Unexpectedly, the request set off a debate among the leaders of the Racine firefighters union.

The problem: Gorniak had recently invoked a little-used provision in his union contract and opted out of membership in the Wisconsin State Firefighters Association.

Members of the executive board of the Racine firefighters union ultimately decided not to support or march with his float.

This week, the head of the union declined to discuss the decision.



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