Liberal Madison Radio Host, Big Labor Allege Barrett Nixed Unity Rally

By Collin Roth

On Tuesday morning, Madison radio host John ‘Sly’ Sylvester hosted Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate on his 1670 WTDY show to ask him why a unity rally planned for Wednesday was cancelled at the last minute. Tate cited the fact that the the general election is just 28 days away and not a single day could be wasted on rallies and not campaigning. Sly countered by alleging that it was the Tom Barrett campaign who cancelled the rally, infuriating labor leaders who already have a frosty relationship with the Milwaukee mayor.

News of the cancellation of the unity rally trickled out via the Democratic Party’s Facebook page on Sunday evening, and then in a Monday post on the liberal blog the Daily Kos. Understandably, grassroots progressives and labor supporters were a bit confused and quite unhappy with the cancellation of the rally and quickly demanded answers from Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate who took full responsibility for canceling the rally.

But in an interesting exchange on Tuesday morning, vocal labor supporter Sly turned the tables on Tate not accepting his explanation for why the rally was cancelled.

SLY: But I’m a little disappointed that you’re taking the fall for the Barrett campaign pulling out of this unity rally.

TATE: You know Sly, that is not at all what happened.

SLY: Mike, I talked to labor leaders all day yesterday. That is what happened.

TATE: It’s not, Sly.

SLY: Mike, then the most prominent labor leaders in this state are lying to me.

TATE: You know Sly, I don’t know who you’re talking to. And I haven’t heard a single leader in the paper or in any of the campaigns or organized labor saying anything other than what it is.

SLY: Either one of two things happened here. You either disappointed the We Are Wisconsin group that was planning this rally– Well you took the permit out at the capitol. This was your event. You’d already moved it once because of the other events that were going on this Saturday. So you moved it to Wednesday. You were planning it with We Are Wisconsin. You took out the permit. You had robo-calls going up until Friday with Mahlon Mitchell. Either you are being a jerk and pulled the plug on this at the last minute, or Tom Barrett backed out at the last minute. I don’t believe you’re that big a jerk that you would do that to organized labor and the people showing up at that rally. I believe Tom Barrett didn’t want to be there.

And as Tate further attempted to take full responsibility, Sly pressed further, divulging what labor leaders told him about communications they had with the Barrett campaign concerning the rally.

S: Mike, here’s what the Barrett campaign told AFSCME leaders behind the scenes. That, they didn’t like the optics. They worried there wouldn’t be a big enough crowd. That they didn’t want to deal with potential protesters. That they didn’t want the signs. That’s what the Barrett campaign is saying behind the scenes to Labor. And that’s the truth.

T: Well, I know actually nothing about that. I’m the one who called labor leaders to tell them. It was my decision not to have this rally. You know, I don’t know where you’re getting your information Sly. You’re the only one out there–

S: You’re right. I’m the only one willing to say it publicly Mike!

For weeks, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin promoted a unity rally to be held on Wednesday to unite the party around the winner of Tuesday’s primary. With the polls holding steady, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is expected to win on Tuesday despite failing to earn a number of key endorsements from the organized labor organizations who initiated the recall effort. Hence the idea by the Democratic Party for a unity rally.

Madison radio host John ‘Sly’ Sylvester endorsed former Dane County Executive in Kathleen Falk in the primary and has been extremely critical of Tom Barrett, whom he recently called “a failed mayor of Milwaukee.”

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