“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, [Matt] 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…
Members of the executive board of the Racine firefighters union ultimately decided not to support or march with his float.”
After the Madison protests earlier this year, Gorniak altered his union membership to ‘fair share,’ meaning he pays dues to cover the union’s worker-representation functions but not its political or other activities.
Gorniak wants to re-enact an iconic event in American history for the parade, and no doubt some people will focus on that – “how can they refuse to support a 9-11 tribute? Unpatriotic!”
But I submit that his intentions aren’t what’s relevant here. In fact, they’re a distraction. He may as well be organizing a bake sale or throwing a backyard barbecue (“how can they refuse to attend a summer barbecue, the bastards got something against bratwurst?”).
What’s important in this story is the motive behind the union board’s decision. Because if it’s true that Gorniak’s membership status is the reason the union refused to back him (and I join the above-linked in believing it is), then they are showing their true colors – the same colors displayed by some of those anti-Walker protesters. To wit:
1) The union has become an end unto itself. It’s no longer about improving workers’ lives, it’s about political clout for the union and its leaders.
2) Loyalty to the union is the primary virtue. Forget country, family or personal beliefs. Toe the line or get treated as second-class.
3) Rank-and-file union members are apparently okay with 1 and 2, so there’s not much hope of changing them.
Unions insisting on themselves and their agendas to the exclusion of all else is a problem. Especially in the public sector.
On the other hand, if we’re wrong about the union’s motivation it should be pretty easy for the board to clear things up. They could simply make it known that off-duty member-in-good-standing firefighters were free to join Gorniak on his float.
In fact, I predict that’s what will happen. Either the union will back off, or you’ll see other members join the float with no repercussions. Check back here on Tuesday.
UPDATE: “The Fourth Fest board has decided that only uniformed firefighters may walk with a 9/11 tribute float in Monday’s Independence Day parade.” Union refuses to support the float entered by the less-than-full member, that member invites other volunteers to participate, parade board decides he can’t do that? Hinky.