No GOP allowed in Labor Day event
This year's Labor Day parade will go on without the lone Republican candidate for Pittsburgh City Council.
Joshua Wander, 40, of Squirrel Hill said the Allegheny County Labor Council, AFL-CIO, has refused his request to march in the September parade that will wind through Downtown. Wander will oppose Corey O'Connor, son of the late Mayor Bob O'Connor, in November for the District 5 seat being vacated by Councilman Doug Shields.
"Many candidates do march," Wander said. "I not only wanted to walk as a candidate, but I also wanted to walk for the Republican Party."
Labor council President Jack Shea said parade participation is an invitation-only affair.
"Those are our rules," Shea said. "It's our parade. We pay for it."
Wander said the labor council should permit him to march because it represents both Democrat and Republican members. But Shea said that politicians of both parties are invited based on their record of working with labor. The labor council also includes candidates it endorses and will permit participation if a candidate is affiliated with a local union and has an invitation from that union.
Wander has no record of working with labor or an affiliation with local unions, Shea said. In addition, the labor council has endorsed O'Connor.
"Those who are not in tune with the working class, we do not invite," Shea said. "(Wander) has to be invited, and he's not going to be invited by me."
Wander said he marched in the Memorial Day parade in Lawrenceville and thought it would be no problem to march on Labor Day.
Organizers of both the Memorial Day parade and the city's St. Patrick's Day parade said they permit politicians of both parties to march as long as they conform with parade rules, which essentially prohibit them from campaigning.
"If you invite politicians, you can't pick and choose which one," said Jim McGinley, organizer of the Memorial Day parade. "If you allow one in, you have to allow them all in."
City Republican Committee Chairman Bob Hillen said the labor council has prohibited other Republican candidates from past Labor Day parades.
"Jack Shea usually finds ways of stopping us from being there, but his refusal is within the law," Hillen said. "They're running it, and they have a right to say who can and cannot be there. I'm not happy about it. It would be nice if the Allegheny County Labor Council had the courage to let the opposition in."
Nadine Brnilovich, Pittsburgh's Special Events Committee coordinator, said the city is not involved with planning or organizing parades and has no input in the selection of participants. The city, she said, issues a permit and provides police and emergency medical service for the events. Permit fees cost $3,125 for larger parades.
Wander said he plans to attend the Labor Day parade as a representative of the GOP. He said he will hand out campaign literature while following the parade.
"I'll probably have as much, probably more, of an effect as I would by marching in the parade," he said.