In the upcoming Racine Fourth of July parade, Wisconsin firefighter Matt Gorniak wants to enter his parade float honoring firefighters and cops killed on Sept. 11, 2001. One problem — Gorniak has availed himself of a little-used contract provision that allows him to opt out of membership in the firefighters’ union. Thus, the union has set out to punish him for his transgression, voting to boycott his float. According to Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The same float — a re-enactment of the famous photo of three firefighters raising the American flag amid the rubble of the World Trade Center — created a rush of emotions as it passed through three parade routes in Milwaukee County back in 2002. Crowds spontaneously rose to their feet, offering thunderous applause.
With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks coming up later this year, Gorniak and his church’s youth group decided to revive the float in Racine’s upcoming Independence Day parade, one of the biggest in the area.
Unexpectedly, the request set off a debate among the leaders of the Racine firefighters union.
The problem: Gorniak had recently invoked a little-used provision in his union contract and opted out of membership in the Wisconsin State Firefighters Association.
Members of the executive board of the Racine firefighters union ultimately decided not to support or march with his float.
This week, the head of the union declined to discuss the decision.
“I really don’t have much of a comment on that,” said Craig Ford, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 321.
Other union leaders were also tight-lipped.
“I don’t feel it’s appropriate for me to make a comment,” said Mike DeGarmo, the union treasurer.
One Racine firefighter is disgusted by the union leadership’s decision.
Mike Gabbey, a veteran firefighter who also resigned from the union earlier this year, said most of his colleagues don’t even know what is going on with the parade float. But Gabbey predicted a huge backlash once word gets out.
“I’ve got to think most of the guys would agree with me: This has nothing to do with politics,” Gabbey said.
Gorniak has said his float will be in the parade, with or without support from his fellow firefighters.