Pittsburgh’s Labor Day Parade is a traditional display of union solidarity, but this year the politics of the governor’s race has opened some fissures among union leaders.
While Tom Wolf, the Democratic nominee, has attracted the lion’s share of labor support, the Republican incumbent has drawn endorsements from several union locals, particularly in the building trades and construction locals. Two of them, Boilermakers Local 154, and the Laborers District Council of Western Pennsylvania, showed their support by inviting Mr. Corbett to march in the annual Downtown parade. But when officials of the parade’s sponsor, the Allegheny County Labor Council, learned of the invitation, they put a roadblock in front of those plans.
“I told them he wasn't invited,’’ said Jack Shea, the veteran Labor Council president. “You can’t be trying to do away with us for 364 days a year and then want to march with us.’’
Phil Ameris, president and business manager of the Laborers, said, “We did invite the governor, like we invite a lot of our political friends ... we wanted him to march with us but we were told by Jack [Shea] that he wasn't welcome.’’
Rather than force a confrontation on the issue, Mr. Ameris said his union and other Corbett supporters were planning to invite Mr. Corbett to some alternate show of support separate from the parade, on or close to the Labor Day celebration.
”We didn't want to have labor against labor,’’ Mr. Ameris said. “I know some of the unions are upset with the governor’s policies, but I was a little shocked that they wouldn't have a sitting governor in the parade ... Jack and I stand on the same team on a lot of issues, but not on this one.’’
Mr. Ameris noted that his union had not supported Mr. Corbett in his 2010 victory over former Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. But he said they had warmed to his administration over its approach to issues including a transportation bill that’s expected to expand building trades employment and support for the natural gas fracking industry.
”We’re 150 percent behind the governor,’’ he said.
Mr. Shea emphasized that the parade’s rebuff was not a reflexive Democratic versus Republican decision, noting that plenty of Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, regularly march with participating unions on the annual trek through Downtown. Mr. Corbett, himself is among the many Republican who have marched in the parade in the past. But Mr. Shea argued that as governor, Mr. Corbett had embraced anti-labor positions on a variety of issues.
Unions have been among the most vociferous critics of the administration’s education funding record. Along with legislators of both parties, they have also resisted Mr. Corbett’s proposal to privatize the state’s liquor sales.