Corbett uninvited to labor parade over LCB issue
Pittsburgh's Labor Day Parade is an invitation-only affair that often leaves prominent Republicans off the guest list.
Jack Shea, president of the Allegheny County Labor Council, which organizes the parade, barred Gov. Tom Corbett from marching, overruling an invitation from the Laborers District Council of Western Pennsylvania, which endorsed the Republican governor from Shaler. Corbett's Democratic opponent in the tense gubernatorial race will march.
“I believe that I am a friend of labor. Obviously, Mr. Shea doesn't feel that way,” Corbett said on Monday at the groundbreaking of a Consol Energy well pad on Pittsburgh International Airport property. Corbett said he will speak to members of the Laborers during a private event after the parade.
Shea said on Monday he had no further comment on the issue. In an interview on Friday, Shea said, “He's against us 364 days a year and then one day of the year he wants to march with us? It doesn't make sense.”
Tom Wolf, a businessman from York County and the Democratic nominee for governor, was invited and will participate in the parade, Shea said. The labor council endorsed Wolf. The Wolf campaign did not return calls for comment.
In dismissing Corbett this year, Shea has mentioned the governor's support for privatizing state-run wine and spirit stores, which employ about 3,500 union clerks. Corbett said his support of privatized liquor stores is not anti-union but pro-consumer.
“What he is worried about is the public-sector unions more than the trades and the private-sector unions,” Corbett said of Shea.
Nationally, about 35 percent of public-sector employees are in a union, compared to fewer than 7 percent in the private sector, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2013, nearly 13 percent of workers in Pennsylvania were in unions — about 701,000 employees — slightly higher than the national average of 11 percent.
Public-sector unions have criticized Corbett. The Pennsylvania State Education Association said the governor cut nearly a billion dollars from public school funding, eliminated tens of thousands of K-12 jobs and axed hundreds of instructional programs, Wythe Keever, a spokesman, wrote in a statement.
Phil Ameris, president and business manager of the Laborers, said Corbett's transportation bill put union members to work across the state.
“All the halls are empty because of that highway bill,” he said. “If we didn't have a transportation bill, there would be no work this year.”
The support of labor unions is always important in close statewide races, said Michael Federici, a political science professor at Mercyhurst University in Erie. Union members typically vote for Democrats, but their enthusiasm can wane, he said. Tempering union support for Wolf could turn the tide in Corbett's favor, Federici said.
Polls give Wolf a steady lead over Corbett, but some recent examples point to a tightening race.
Marty Marks, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, said it is tradition for the labor council to invite only politicians it has endorsed. Republican Congressman Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair has marched in the parade with the labor council's endorsement.
“Most people that have an anti-labor record to the extent that Tom Corbett does won't be so presumptuous to assume that they would be invited,” Marks said.
Pittsburgh Republican Committee Chairman Bob Hillen said the labor council has turned the parade into a political event for decades. He remembered candidates being snubbed as far back as 1997, when John Mazzie, a bus driver and a Republican running for a state congressional seat, was not allowed to march with his union.
Shea kept Corbett, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, then city council candidate Joshua Wander, the lone Republican candidate in the field, out of the 2011 parade.
“Do you think I make a list?” Shea said when asked which politicians he has not invited.
The parade drew more than 50,000 marchers last year, according to the labor council.
Corbett said it is big enough for both candidates to march.
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.