Thursday, October 27, 2011

In One Of Nation’s Most Democratic Cities, Emanuel Goes After Chicago Labor Unions One By One

He’s mayor of a city where Democrats and organized labor are famous for working side by side, but Rahm Emanuel is now turning up the heat on Chicago’s unions one by one.

Emanuel has ridiculed the practice of paying heavy equipment operators overtime just to get ready for work. He’s invited private trash haulers to square off against city crews to see who does a better, cheaper job. And he’s called out transit workers for getting paid time off not only for their birthdays but for the day they landed their jobs.

Mayors and governors across the country have criticized organized labor in their efforts to ease budget problems. But the public spats between union leaders and the former White House chief of staff are a brand-new spectacle in Chicago, where for generations unions have kept a tight hold on many jobs and played an important role in the party political machine that kept mayors in office.

“It’s an effort to demonize the workforce,” complained Robert Kelly, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, which city officials blamed this month for the need to cut $277 million in public transportation funds.

Since taking office in May, Emanuel has portrayed himself as the champion of taxpayers and even the city’s schoolchildren as he targets the overtime pay, perks and work schedules of teachers, garbage collectors and other workers in the three dozen unions that represent more than 60,000 city employees.


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