News Column

GOP Candidate Cries Foul Over Labor Day Parade

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For the second year in a row, organizers of two Madison County, Ill., Labor Day parades did not invite Republican candidates to participate, and once again one of them is crying "not fair."

"To deny any individual or group entry into these parades on the basis of political affiliation is discrimination," said Amy Sholar of Alton, Republican candidate for Madison County state's attorney. "The fact that taxpayer-supported resources, such as the police and fire departments, are being used when such discriminatory practices are taking place is just wrong."

Capt. Scott Waldrup of the Alton Police Department said officers working at the parade will be on extra duty, and the department would bill the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor, which sponsors the event, for the costs.

Fire Chief Bernie Sebold said the Alton Fire Department would not have trucks in the parade. Firefighters who want to participate will walk the route on their own unpaid time, he said. The firefighters will represent Alton Fire Fighters Local 1255, not the department, he said.

Sholar asked that all Republican and Democratic candidates be allowed to participate in the Alton and Granite City parades marking Labor Day. An attorney, she said she has "considered filing for injunctive relief to address this discrimination and to ensure that all candidates supportive of unions can walk in the parade, rather than the few candidates favored by certain union leaders."

The first of the parades, which the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor holds every year, will be this Saturday in Upper Alton. The second parade is held on Labor Day in Granite City.

Federation President B. Dean Webb, of East Alton, said the labor organization will not allow Sholar to participate in the parade because she is not an endorsed candidate, not because she is a Republican.

"She is not an endorsed candidate. There were four Republicans endorsed in the Chicago area, and if they want to come down and march in the parade, I would be happy to let them in," Webb said. "There were Democrats that were not endorsed, who did not qualify."

The Madison County labor group did not endorse any Republican candidate, he confirmed.

Webb said Sholar applied for endorsement and he interviewed her about organized labor issues, but the federation chose incumbent State's Attorney Tom Gibbons, a Democrat.

Sholar said she walked in the parade two years ago with no problems before she was a candidate. Last year, when Sholar was refused a place in the parade, she held her own walk along the route of the parade on the sidewalks, with supporters holding pro-labor signs.

Webb said that march was "quite disrespectful, against our wishes."

"She says she is a friend of labor, but won't abide by our rules and tradition," Webb said.

Sholar said she plans to repeat her own sidewalk parade alongside the one in the street, and expects "a big group" of supporters to join her.

"We were well-received last year by the neighbors," she said. "We will walk in support of labor and pass out fliers. We will have signs saying, 'Sholar for Labor,' the same as Madison County Federation of Labor. We could have filed for a temporary restraining order, but we do not want to be adversarial."

Alton's parade, as tradition, steps off at 10 a.m. from Alton Middle School, 2200 College Ave., heads east up College and winds through the Upper Alton area. Besides public office holders and union officials, various tradesmen walk or ride the route to celebrate organized labor's history and accomplishments, with a mission to fight for workers' rights, Webb said.

Amy Meyer, Democratic candidate for Madison County recorder, will be marshal.

"She is a new, upcoming candidate; she has been a friend of labor for a long time," Webb said.

He said three levels of union officials in Illinois screen candidates for endorsement in Committees on Political Education, from the state level to congressional district -- in this case, the 12th District -- and at the county level.

Webb said at the Madison County level, the COPE endorses candidates down to the level of County Board chairman, based on labor issues, but not offices below that.

When asked what a state's attorney's relationship to organized labor would be, Webb said it could be his or her influence.

"They could have some influence on our legislators; they could write letters," Webb said. "Labor is in a fight for its life. Wisconsin and Indiana are all 'red states' that turned to 'right to work for less states.'"

Sholar issued a news release to the media and wrote letters to Alton Mayor Tom Hoechst, who is her uncle, as well as to Granite City Mayor Ed Hagnauer, aldermen from both cities, Webb and Michael Fultz of the Granite City AFL-CIO. She acknowledged the cities are not to blame, but insisted parades still use public resources and should be open to all.

"It's truly none of my business," Hoechst said, although he will be in the Alton parade. "The city's position on this is, we approved a request to hold a parade. In such situations, we retain the authority, and we regulate traffic, but we have no role as to who is in the parade. We have no ties to it. We just issue a permit."

Chip Buckman of Alton, who contacted The Telegraph and called himself a Republican, submitted the following statement: "It is a shame the Labor Day parade organizers are excluding the local Republican establishment and candidate from marching in the Labor Day parade. On a day when taxpayer-funded services such as police and firefighters are being shown off in the parade, part of their taxpaying base, who happens to be conservative, is being refused permission to participate.

"It seems fairness has been co-opted by the typical left-wing censorship model," Buckman said. "It is very ironic that the left's claim to diversity does not hold up when the other side shows up with its opposing point of view. The left and their local backing unions should man up, be civilized and allow ideas to compete fairly for a change. Haven't we all had enough of their manipulation of the message and of people? That hardly seems to me to be an ideal of the so-called '99 percent.'"

Sholar repeatedly has said she supports organized labor.

Alton's parade is capped off by the finals of the annual James Stanley Memorial Charity Softball Tournament, which started Wednesday at Gordon F. Moore Community Park. The winning team chooses a charity to which to donate its cash prize.

Granite City's parade will begin at 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 3, at State Street between Niedringhaus Avenue and 18th Street, ending at Wilson Park with a picnic. Madison County Clerk Mark von Nida, Democratic candidate for circuit clerk, will be marshal.

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