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Firefighters in union controversy over parade float

by
Fire Truck photo
Fire Truck photo

OAK CREEK, Wis (WSAU) A float that features an emotional scene from the 9-11 terrorist attacks has become embroiled in Wisconsin’s union politics. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said Oak Creek fire lieutenant Matt Gorniak was taken aback, when the Racine fire union refused to march with the float in Monday’s Fourth-of-July parade.

Gorniak said it was because he pulled out of the State Fire-fighters Association this past spring. And while he still makes payments to cover negotiating costs, he’s no longer helping to fund other union activities.

Leaders of the Racine fire union refused comment. But veteran Racine fire-fighter Mike Gabbey said the remembrance of 9-11 – and the float’s salute to firefighters – should have nothing to do with union politics. And he told the Journal Sentinel there will be a huge public backlash. The float depicts the classic photo of three fire-fighters raising the American flag in the rubble of the World Trade Center. Gorniak said crowds gave thunderous applause when the float appeared in three Milwaukee County parades in 2002.

Racine Fire Chief Steve Hansen said the float was a good idea. But he couldn’t make his officers be on it, so he had the union handle it. Gorniak said the union was for all it, until they learned of his withdrawal from the state association. He said he pulled because he agrees with Governor Scott Walker – and he couldn’t stand the protests over the law that limits collective bargaining. Fire unions are exempt from that law.

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