Laborfest 2013 cancellation leads to question of why?

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Milwaukee Area Labor Council has announced it is cancelling Laborfest -- and now the big question is "why?"

Sheila Cochran is the secretary, treasurer and chief operating officer for the Milwaukee Area Labor Council -- the group that has decided to cancel Milwaukee's Laborfest this year.

"By no means are we dead and gone. I had a couple people say 'well, this is just a sign.' It might be a sign, but it's not the sign I think they though it was," Cochran said.

Laborfest has been a staple in Milwaukee for decades, and takes place at the Summerfest grounds, along Milwaukee's Lakefront.

It has attracted presidents and thousands of union members.

Laborfest includes a car show, and expansive children's area and a big parade.

This year, there was a conflict: Laborfest would have occurred one day after Harley-Davidson's big 110th anniversary celebration wraps up.

Cochran says to look at it as a one-year hiatus -- adding that Laborfest is a very staff-intensive operation, and she didn't have the staff to push it forward this year.

"That is what my staff does and we unfortunately had some staff cuts and so we knew we had to postpone it," Cochran said.

Critics say declining union members because of the state's passage of Act 10 played more of a role in Laborfest's cancellation.

Under the law, public sector unions can no longer negotiate directly on behalf of their members' health and retirement care or other benefits, and can only negotiate wages within a narrow cost of living index -- and workers don't have to become union members and pay dues.

"Most certainly we can't deny some of that has a part of it, but no, that's not all of it by any means. There are some things I think that be it attrition or however you want to call it -- in this case we actually had a retirement and we needed to do some changes," Cochran said.

Cochran says she knows a lot of people will be disappointed by the cancellation of Laborfest this year, but says it was necessary. Cochran says hopefully, Laborfest will be back next year.