Warner Todd Huston
January 11, 2011
Emanuel pushing anti-teachers union line in race for Chicago mayor?
By Warner Todd Huston

Rahm Emanuel is not the union's favorite man. He has had union detractors since his days pushing the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) during the Clinton administration. Since then there have been other clashes between Emanuel and unions even as he served President Obama as his Chief of Staff. Now, as he takes after the Chicago teachers union, he seems to be tweaking unions yet again as he runs for the top seat in City Hall here in Chicago.

At least he's consistent!

On January 10, while campaigning for Mayor, Emanuel laid out a few of his positions on Chicago's failing schools. What he said is sure to upset the unions — not just that of teachers, either.

Emanuel says he supports limiting teacher's rights to strike and said that if they won't agree to working for longer hours, he'll ask the state legislature to force them to accept the policy.

Emanuel spoke in support of some of the policy ideas in the Performance Counts Act education bill.

    "As we have [rules against strikes] for police and firefighters, I would have it for teachers because they provide an essential service," Emanuel said.

    ..."The bill as constructed in Springfield I'd support. I support that legislation because I think it keeps them at the table discussing."

Chicago's newly minted chief of the teachers union was not amused.

    "They're talking about taking away all our collective bargaining rights," CTU President Karen Lewis said. "You're talking about putting a hammer on Chicago Teachers Union. It's all about threats right now. It's not healthy or good for all of us. Let's give collective bargaining a chance to work instead of just trying to dog us out. Rahm Emanuel is not the mayor of Chicago yet. Let's have that discussion when he is or if he is."

This is a very interesting tack for Emanuel. After all, let's face it: Usually those running for mayor... or any other Illinois office, for that matter... bow and scrape to unions, all unions. Especially the teachers unions.

But here we have Rahm sticking to his habit of tweaking unions by immediately saying that he'll act against the druthers of the Chicago teachers unions. This is a new feature of the race for City Hall.

But, is this really a dangerous move for Emanuel? Actually, I think it is a pretty canny move. We are in an era when unions have never been less popular. Public employee unions like the teachers unions, are even less popular than their counterparts in the private sector.

People view public employee unions as crooks stealing the government and the taxpayers blind. There is little sympathy for them anywhere in the electorate and for good reason. So, Emanuel seeming to stand up to them should play rather well with the voters. And since unions are at low ebb in their power to force their thuggish will on their world, it is also a time when his gambit might not see many negative consequences in the power politics department.

Yes, it is a pretty canny move.

© Warner Todd Huston


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Warner Todd Huston

Warner Todd Huston's thoughtful commentary, sometimes irreverent often historically based, is featured on many websites... (more)

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