Racine Firefighters Missing or Missing an Opportunity?

Will Racine Fireman be missing from this years July 4th parade?  So far, it appears the answer will be yes.  As July 4th draws nearer we’ll see.  If they are no shows, I think they will be missing an opportunity to show Racine, the State of Wisconsin, and the rest of America that they are beyond petty squabbles, especially when it comes to remembering their fallen brothers and sisters.

What am I talking about?  It seems that a Milwaukee area firefighter, Matt Gorniak, is bringing back to life, a float paying tribute to the fireman and women of New York who gave their lives during the attack of 9/11/2001.  The float is a recreation of the scene of several New York Fireman raising the American Flag amid the devastation of 9-11.  Gorniak has said that the float was very well received and stirred alot of emotion when it was used in July of 2002.  This year marks the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks and Gorniak thought it would be the perfect time to bring the float back.  Racine parade officials agreed.

At first the Racine Firemans Union (International Association of Fire Fighters Local 321) agreed too, then they were made aware that Gorniak is what they refer to as a “fairshare” member of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin.  That is, he pays a portion of normal dues.  The portion that pays for his representation at contract talks only.  He does not pay for social or politcal type stuff.  Because of this, the union says that they will not take part in the Racine Fourth of July Parade.

Okay.  So, then Gorniak offered to step aside and let the union drive the float in the parade without him.  The union still said no.

At this point, Gorniak says that he will be driving the float in the parade and that any firefighters that wish to participate are welcome.  Gorniak believes that this is about remembering their fallen brothers and sisters, not only in New York, but around America.

“I want to touch our community,” Gorniak said. “I’m hoping patriotic people are out in droves, and they don’t see this as union or nonunion.”

I can appreciate the unions concern about Gorniak’s union status but to miss this opportunity to pay tribute to their fallen brothers and sisters as well as those in the medical and law enforcement communities is sad.  They say there are exceptions to every rule.  In a sense, I think that might apply here.  This is a chance for the union to put partisan bickering aside and rise above politically incited emotions.  It’s a fantastic opportunity to show America that even though we don’t like what has happened in Wisconsin with collective bargaining etc., We are still here putting our lives in danger for you and your families.

All the “Negative” publicity concerning this parade “non-participation” is only making the union look bad.  I can’t help but think that this is confirming the “negative thoughts” many people have about public employee unions.

It’s not too late.  Those “negative thoughts” can be changed.  What do you say?  Just Asking.

For the complete story, read Dan Bice’s column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal.

UPDATE:  7/2/11

According to a brief article posted at 2:08 p.m. this afternoon at the Journal Sentinal online, uniformed firefighters will be allowed to march in Racine’s Fourth of July Parade.  The article cites an email from the President of Fourth Fest of Greater Racine, Mark Hinkston, saying that Fourth Fests executive comittee has agreed to allow uniformed fireman to march with the float honoring firefighters and other emergency personnel that lost their lives in the 9-11 attack.

As far as I can tell this simply means that those in charge of the parade will allow firefighters to march with the float in the parade, it says nothing about the local union authorizing their members to march.  The main obstacle to firefighter participation, the union, apparently still hasn’t given its blessing to participation.  The parade comittee had some concerns about fireman marching because of the unions concern.  The Fourth Fest executive comittee probably was concerned about trouble or some other type of backlash at the event.

Here’s a link to the Journal Sentinal update.

UPDATE:   7/4/11

The float took part in the parade.  Three teens played the part of the New York Fireman raising the flag among the 9-11 ruins.  Matt Gorniak drove the float in Racines parade.  He was accompanied by only one firefighter.  According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal report, Gorniak said he only heard two negative comments.  He said the people were very receptive of the floats participation in the parade.

Here is a link to the latest Journal Sentinal update.

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