Rahm Emanuel: Chicago’s War Criminal/Anti-Labor Mayor – by Stephen Lendman
Except for Harold Washington’s 1983 – 1987 tenure until his untimely death, Chicago never had populist mayors, notably under father Richard J. (April 20, 1955 – December 20, 1976) and son Richard M. Daley (April 24, 1989 – May 16, 2011).
However, after two months in office, Emanuel looks likely to be Chicago’s worst, based on policy initiatives he supports.
As White House chief of staff, he was criminally part of Obama’s war cabinet. As Chicago’s mayor, he’s waging it against labor.
Candidate Emanuel, in fact, promised draconian anti-worker cuts “in attacking our budget deficit, (so) there must be no sacred cows….Chicago will have to make tough choices, (forcing) more than $500 million in efficiencies” on the backs of working Chicagoans already struggling to get by when they need help, not greater sacrifices they can’t afford.
No matter, slash and burn now is policy, including layoffs, wage freezes, and benefit cuts, notably targeting healthcare and pensions. Then in June, Emanuel rescinded a contractual 4% raise owed 30,000 teachers, indicating the same policy would follow for other Chicago Public Schools (CPS) employees as part of his war on public education and Chicago workers.
In late June, it continued with 1,000 teachers fired, besides 4,000 since 2009, school closures, larger class sizes, and other draconian measures. Reassigned teachers retain salaries and benefits for one year as “interim” substitute staff. If not kept after 10 months, they’re “honorabl(y) terminated.”
In other words, fired, no matter their qualifications, tenure, or student needs. In fact, many other teachers were sacked without temporary pay or benefits, according to union officials, who have little to boast about after endorsing Illinois Senate Bill 7 (SB 7).
Its provisions include using standardized tests to fire teachers, regardless of seniority, tenure, qualifications, or how students respond to effective classroom practices, what rote memory tests can’t measure. It also lets school districts increase hours per day, and add extra school weeks, with no additional compensation. In addition, teacher strikes are prohibited until after four months of negotiations plus a special arbitration panel’s ruling.
Even then, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) must give 10 days notice backed by 75% of its members to approve a walkout. In other words, SB 7 empowers state and city authorities over their right to demand equity or walk out.
At the same time, CPS executives got salary increases up to 30% over their predecessors. Emanuel’s new CPS head, Jean-Claude Brizard, earns $250,000 plus a 15% incentive package. Earlier as Rochester, New York public schools superintendent, 95% of teachers deplored his policies in office.
Moreover, he’s named in two federal lawsuits regarding improper handling of budget cuts and school closures. Earlier, he attended the notorious Superintendents’ Academy of the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems, founded by corporate predator Eli Broad to train administrators on restructuring and privatizing public education at the expense of educating kids.
Nonetheless, Emanuel wants him to replicate what he did in Rochester. Elizabeth Swanson is his deputy chief of staff, formerly (billionaire Penny) Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation executive director.
It advocates merit pay, school privatizations, and other regressive policies supported by Arne Duncan, former CPS head. He’s now Obama’s Education Secretary, appointed to wreck public education nationwide through his Race to the Top scheme, linking federal funding to compliance with retrograde federal standards. They mandate:
— open-ended conversion of public schools to charter or for-profit ones;
— running them by marketplace rules;
— requiring state laws conform with federal ones;
— linking teacher pay to student achievement as determined by standardized tests that measure rote memory, not real learning or preparation for higher education;
— destroying unions and teacher benefits;
— empowering bureaucrats over parents to decide what’s best for their children;
— creating a two-tiered, class and income-based system, favoring affluent communities over poor ones, denying poor kids real education and a chance for a better future; and
— destroying public education by creating another business profit profit center.
Emanuel plans more of it for Chicago, including weakening collective bargaining and teachers’ right to strike, the same core issues Wisconsin state workers tried and so far failed to save, perhaps heading for the chopping block in Chicago.
In fact, Emanuel explained:
“As we (prohibit strikes by) police and firefighters, I would have it for teachers because they provide an essential service.”
Of course, so do all public and private workers, entitled to rights like everyone, including to bargain collectively and strike if treated inequitably.
Since taking office, however, Emanuel waged war on Chicago workers, implementing austerity like Obama’s doing nationally at a time massive stimulus is needed.
Sworn in on May 16, his 25-minute address mimicked Obama, calling for “shar(ing) the necessary sacrifices fairly and justly.” In other words, make working Chicagoans sacrifice so corporate interests and city elites share, the same cancer metastasizing across America, destroying an earlier time long gone.
Saying “Chicago is ready for change,” he omitted hard truths he began implementing on the backs of struggling working households. They need help, not greater hardships with lots more coming to close a $700 million budget gap and resolve $14.6 billion in underfunded pension liabilities perhaps by expunging them and cheating retirees.
While campaigning, in fact, he told city unions he planned pension cuts for all city employees, privatizations of many city services, selling Chicago incrementally to corporate favorites, and restructuring of revenue, finance, fleet management, and general service systems.
— downsizing government;
— slashing the city’s $6.15 billion budget;
— cutting management payrolls by 10% by merging departments;
— laying off city workers;
— privatizing city services, including public education more intensively;
— ending past social reforms;
— encouraging private investment through tax breaks;
— getting tougher on crime by reassigning 1,000 police to city streets, including hundreds to poor neighborhoods to harass Blacks and Latinos;
— improving Chicago’s business climate in collaboration with complicit unions, betraying their rank and file for a seat at the table plus high salaries, excellent benefits, and generous perks.
On July 15, Emanuel announced laying off 625 city workers. Affected are custodians, water department call center operators, and transportation department seasonal workers.
He also announced new privatizations. In addition, cost-cutting work rules are being discussed with union bosses, including unpaid days off, paid holidays reduced from 12 to nine, and new hoisting engineer wage differentials, based on machines they operate.
Other work rules he wants implemented include:
— paying workers time-and-a-half for overtime instead of double;
— paying regular, not extra wages for prep time;
— a standard 40-hour week for all city employees, replacing 35 hours for some;
— regardless of union affiliation, workers doing the same job will get no wage differential;
— salaried employees will get the same number of sick days and holidays as hourly ones;
— rate differences for driving different vehicles or operating various non-vehicular equipment will be eliminated;
— workers alone on a truck paid no more than as part of a crew; and
— union apprenticeship cost saving programs will be enhanced.
Moreover, city workers no longer will provide airport and library custodial services. Private companies will replace them at greater cost.
In addition, seasonal transportation department workforces will be cut 75%. As a result, 61 fewer blocks of curb and gutter improvements will be made, as well as 76 fewer sidewalk blocks repaired.
Henceforth, a professional benefits management company, not public staff, will handle city benefit services at greater cost to the city and taxpayers.
Chicago’s water bill call center will also be privatized, again at greater cost.
Overall, hundreds of city workers will be sacked to allegedly save millions of dollars. In fact, costs will be increased, not cut, making Chicagoans pay for privatized services public workers can do as well cheaper.
According to American Federation of State, County and Municipal (AFSCME) Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer:
“Mayor Emanuel’s announced intention to lay off 625 employees will diminish the availability and quality of city services on which Chicago residents depend. It will also” increase already high city unemployment.
“We are surprised and disappointed at (his) scattershot approach to the city’s budget shortfall. We are paricularly disappointed that most of his bullets are aimed at frontline employees who do the real work of city government.”
“Contrary to (his) claim, neither he nor his representatives have ever made any attempt to meet with our union to negotiate changes to work rules….If the mayor were serious about (instituting positive changes), he would have taken the appropriate measures to engage in such discussions.” Not doing so shows “blaming union work rules for (Chicago’s) massive deficit is mere public relations gimmickry.”
“In that spirit, we call on the Mayor to rescind his layoff threat and work collaboratively to reduce costs while protecting city services and jobs.”
In fact, AFSCME, CTU, and other city union bosses collaborate with city management, furthering their own interests over rank-and-file members they pretend to represent. As a result, Bayer’s statement rings hollow, common practice to make workers think he’s on their side when, in fact, he and other union heads fall short.
In Chicago, Illinois and across America, government and corrupted union bosses collaborate against workers, agreeing on wage freezes, benefit cuts, and layoffs, making already dire conditions worse.
As a result, harder than ever hard times deepen to assure corporate favorites and wealthy elites benefit at the expense of troubled working households being scammed.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.