Walker OK with honoring labor leader Cesar Chavez

In this March 8, 1989 file photo, Cesar Chavez gestures as he speaks during a news conference in Los Angeles.
In this March 8, 1989 file photo, Cesar Chavez gestures as he speaks during a news conference in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alan Greth, File)

MADISON (AP) – Gov. Scott Walker has no problems creating a voluntary state holiday honoring labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, although the Democratic-sponsored bill to do that appears to be going nowhere in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jocasta Zamarripa, tells the Wisconsin State Journal in a story published Thursday that Walker informed her during a meeting last month that he supported her bill.

“Absolutely there’s a political plus for him,” Zamarripa told the newspaper. “But I’ll take it. It’s important for us to lift up the fastest-growing constituency in our state.”

Walker said Wednesday he backed the measure as long as it doesn’t cost the state any money. The bill has no Republican co-sponsors in the Legislature and is unlikely to pass before the session ends in April.

The proposal would require state agencies to designate March 31 as Cesar Chavez Day and give state employees the option of taking a paid day off in lieu of another paid holiday. California, Colorado and Texas have passed a similar law.

Chavez founded the United Farm Workers in 1962 and used nonviolent forms of protest to advocate for worker rights. Walker pushed through a law in 2011 that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers and led to his 2012 recall election.

Walker’s spokesman Tom Evenson said that the governor has a different view of private sector unions, calling them “partners in job creation.”

Rep. Mandela Barnes, D-Milwaukee, chairman of the Legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus, said Walker’s support for the bill may be an attempt to court Latino voters as he faces re-election in November and considers a possible presidential run in 2016.

“The last election shows that’s a very important demographic,” Barnes said about Latino voters heavily favoring Democrats in the 2012 presidential election. “If you want to run in a nationwide election, you would need that kind of support.”

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