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MEDIA WATCH: Emanuel escalates attacks on public workers, unions... Cut existing pensions, mayoral candidate tells Chicago Federation of Labor, then follows up with a teacher bashing session at Chicago Sun-Times editorial board

Chicago Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel, who once made $18 million as an "investment banker" between stints in public service (time with the Clinton administration and his time as Congressman for the Fifth Illinois Congressional District), has escalated his attack on working people, especially unionized public employees. Most recently, he has has taken up the attack on public workers' defined benefit pension plans, echoing the sentiments of The Wall Street Journal and other outlets of corporate views.

Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was featured at the UNO anniversary fundraiser on November 16, 2010, seated adjacent to Mayor Richard M. Daley and UNO chiefs while other mayoral candidates and hopefuls were either snubbed or seated farther away. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Emanuel's most recent job outside Chicago was as chief of staff for President Barack Obama. Emanuel quit his Washington, D.C. job to return to Chicago and run for mayor following the announcement by Richard M. Daley that he would not seek another term. The voting takes place February 22, 2011, with a runoff if no candidate gets the majority of votes.

One of the most interesting things about the following article, which appeared January 8, 2011, in The New York Times (national edition and on line) is that it discusses an event which took place three weeks earlier (on December 15). Another point of interest is that none of this information about Emanuel's position on pensions has been reported in the Chicago Sun-Times or Chicago Tribune.

The labor leader and others who attended the meeting said they did not want to be identified for fear that Mr. Emanuel would retaliate if he were elected.

NEW YORK TIMES CHICAGO ARTICLE APPEARS BELOW HERE

Mayor Richard M. Daley had ample time to talk politics with Rahm Emanuel, who had once worked at City Hall, during the UNO anniversary dinner on November 16, 2010, because they were seated together while the other mayoral hopefuls were far away. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.January 8, 2011, Emanuel Says He Favors Reduced Pensions for Current Workers and New Hires, By DAN MIHALOPOULOS, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/us/09cncpulse.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

In contrast to his main rivals in the mayor’s race, Rahm Emanuel has told labor leaders that he favors reducing pension benefits for the city’s existing work force and not just for new hires. Although Mr. Emanuel has not yet publicly detailed his plan to confront the city’s perennial budget deficits and the severely underfinanced employee pension funds, he told union officials in a private meeting on Dec. 15 that he thought it could be necessary to cut the pensions of all employees, said people who attended the meeting.

Mr. Emanuel made the comments while he was being interviewed by leaders of the Chicago Federation of Labor. That umbrella group for 300 unions has not yet endorsed any of the candidates who will be running in the Feb. 22 election to succeed Mayor Richard M. Daley, who is retiring.

“The sticking issue for all of us is the pension issue,” said a labor activist who attended the meeting with Mr. Emanuel. “I can’t tell my members we are going to support a guy who is going to cut your pensions.”

The labor leader and others who attended the meeting said they did not want to be identified for fear that Mr. Emanuel would retaliate if he were elected.

Mr. Emanuel plans to disclose his position on city finances in a speech sometime in February, said Ben LaBolt, his spokesman. Told of the union officials’ accounts of the endorsement session, Mr. LaBolt said, “Rahm told the truth about the financial conditions of the pension system and the crisis that it faces.”

Rahm Emanuel. Photo by George Schmidt.In a statement, Mr. LaBolt added that Mr. Emanuel believed “fundamental reform” was necessary to ensure that workers would receive pension benefits when they retire.

“Rahm knows — and Chicagoans understand — that the pension system as currently constructed is not an honest system,” Mr. LaBolt said. “It’s not fair for taxpayers, and it’s not fair for city workers.”

Public employees’ retirement funds have been hit hard not only by the weak economy but also by early-retirement offers, wage increases and the Chicago Public Schools’ partial “pension holiday,” which has allowed the district to reduce its pension contributions.

A new state law will require Chicago and other cities in Illinois to contribute more money toward pensions for police officers and firefighters. Mr. Daley strenuously objected to that change, warning that it would result in the biggest property tax increase in Chicago’s history.

State lawmakers also approved changes last year that limit pension benefits and raise the retirement age for new public employees, but that legislation did not affect workers already on the payroll.

The mayoral candidates Miguel del Valle, Carol Moseley Braun and Gery Chico have said they favor a two-tier pension system with reduced benefits only for new hires.

“I just don’t think it’s right for current employees contracted under certain terms to be told, ‘No, that’s not going to happen,’ ” said Mr. del Valle, the city clerk, adding that he believes doing so would violate the State Constitution.

EMANUEL BACKS CRACKDOWN ON CHICAGO TEACHERS (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, JANUARY 10, 2011)

Emanuel backs crackdown on teachers, By Abdon M. Pallasch and Fran Spielman, Staff Reporters, Last Modified: Jan 10, 2011 02:32AM Chicago Sun-Times.

Mayoral front-runner Rahm Emanuel supports curtailing teachers’ right to strike. And if they won’t agree to work longer hours for extra pay, he’ll ask state legislators to mandate it, he said.

“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 “Performance Counts” bill the state legislature is considering would severely limit the right of teachers to strike. The Chicago Teachers Union says it would essentially eliminate the right to strike.

There has been no teachers strike in Chicago since 1987.

Emanuel says he supports the package of reforms, which he says will reward high-performing teachers and give principals greater sway to weed out low-performing teachers.

“The bill as constructed in Springfield I’d support,” he said. “I support that legislation because I think it keeps them at the table discussing.”

The teachers’ union has a rival bill it says more fairly deals with the same issues without gutting the right to strike, a right the union has used over the years to get good salaries that make teaching in some of Chicago’s highest-crime neighborhoods attractive.

“The teachers in the city of Chicago work hard and they are good,” Emanuel said. “They are working very hard in adverse conditions in many places but they are not underpaid.”

Chicago’s short school hours and short school years set students here back, Emanuel said. A student graduating from 12 years in Houston’s schools has four years more education than one graduating from Chicago’s, he said. New York and Los Angeles students also come out with two to three years more than Chicago’s he said.

“Chicago kids are being cheated out of four years’ worth of education,” he said.

Not just for educational reasons but for their own safety, Emanuel said he would like to keep Chicago students in school longer. But he said the teachers union has shown it is not serious about considering that proposal, even when the administration offers to pay teachers more.

“At some point in the last negotiations, they were offered $345 million for an extra 45 minutes,” Emanuel said. “They actually rejected more money. Then it came down to 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 5 minutes. Two-thirds of all juvenile crimes occur from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. when they’re not in school.”

Shaking hands at “L” stops around the city, Emanuel said he has seen “an emptiness in kid’s eyes that I would never accept in my own children” — a dynamic he wants to fight.

If the teachers will not agree to work longer hours for more pay, he will ask state legislators to mandate more hours of school in Chicago for students to graduate — a new “floor” of hours the schools must meet.

“We have to create a floor as a minimum,” Emanuel said. “If you offer $345 million for an extra 45 minutes and it’s turned down, we’re not having a serious discussion.”

The CTU has many friends in the legislature and they appear to have stalled the “Performance Counts” bill for the moment, though at meetings around town Thursday, the union urged members to call legislators and urge them to fight the bill.

“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.”

Emanuel has met with Lewis and the union leadership.

“They want to see a limitation on charters. I want to see an expansion,” Emanuel said. “They want to see a moratorium on shutting down failing schools. I don’t believe in that. I believe in a parent trigger [allowing parents to close schools.]”

He does share the unions’ opposition to vouchers.

He wants to emulate the success of Chicago Academy — a Northwest Side public school that trains teachers. He hopes to have 17 around the city.

In a 90-minute discussion with the Sun-Times editorial board Friday, Emanuel also said:

♦ He is not enthusiastic about it but he would support a city-owned downtown casino. He would not support video poker.

♦ He agrees with Mayor Daley that the Taste of Chicago should remain forever free.

♦ He opposes selling or leasing city assets such as Midway Airport.



Comments:

January 9, 2011 at 3:05 AM

By: kugler

Emanuel is Anti-Union

“The sticking issue for all of us is the pension issue,” said a labor activist who attended the meeting with Mr. Emanuel. “I can’t tell my members we are going to support a guy who is going to cut your pensions.”

The labor leader and others who attended the meeting said they did not want to be identified for fear that Mr. Emanuel would retaliate if he were elected.

Imagine what has happened to our city when union people are afraid to go on the record against someone that is anti-union!

January 9, 2011 at 7:52 AM

By: Albert Korach

cutting your pension

As a former VP of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund I felt good knowing that my years of service on the fund helped teachers know that when their years of service are over there will be a monthly check to help them through their senior years. For many former teachers it was hard enough for us to support a family and send our children to college while working let alone have our pensions cut while retired. It's madness to think that public employees will support or endorse a mayoral candidate that advocates cutting workers pensions.

January 9, 2011 at 11:21 AM

By: Joe Linehan

Rahm

This isn't directed at the CTU who is working through the process of endorsing De Valle or Braun, but the unions of this town had better wake up. Their collective force is one of the few things that can shake up the Emmanuel apple cart a little and if they don't, too many will be spending their golden years selling apples out of a cart.

January 9, 2011 at 11:23 AM

By: Joe Linehan

correction on del valle

My apologies, of course I meant del Valle and not De Valle. He strikes me as a man of great integrity and he has been a friend of teachers and students for a long time. I just hope he can somehow make an amazing rally to get to the runoff.

January 9, 2011 at 12:05 PM

By: MacDuff's Ghost

Where did that finger come from?

Is that photograph real? Where did that finger come from on Emanuel's right hand? Was he saluting someone we can't see?

January 9, 2011 at 3:22 PM

By: Jim Cavallero

Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago press & unions

I went to the Chicago Tribune website today. First time in months as I refuse to read the Tribune anymore. I did not see anything on there about Rahm talking about pensions. Same for the Sun-Times. It's appalling that local media has nothing about this and the NY Times and Substance did.

I also agree with Joe. Unions need to wake the hell up. This is a man who has already said "f@#k the UAW". Even if it was taken out of context as he claims. He still said "f@#k the UAW" in some context or other then. I heard but can not confirm that a plumbers local in Chicago has already endorsed him. I hope the friend that told me this was wrong. Any union that thinks Emanuel will be their friend or freind to any of the working class is out of their mind.

He hasn't attended one candidates forum. I guess the only forum he needs is the business elite and old school machine Democrats of Chicago.

January 10, 2011 at 9:29 AM

By: Emanuel backs crackdown on teachers

Emanuel backs crackdown on teachers

Sun-Times\r\rhttp://www.suntimes.com/3204826-417/teachers-chicago-emanuel-union-hours.html

January 10, 2011 at 5:52 PM

By: Rod Estvan

Questions about Emanuel's 45 minute statement

Mr. Emanuel states that at some point in the past the CTU was offered $345 million additional for teachers to work an additional 45 minutes. I do not recall the Board making such an offer as a stand alone deal. Does anyone out there know the details on this issue?

January 10, 2011 at 8:10 PM

By: Nick

Rahm's statement

I'm a teacher in CPS and have never heard of such an offer either. Most teachers I know would work a longer day if compensated fairly for it. However, I get the feeling they want us to work the longer day without extra pay while they cut our pensions and other benefits.

Where does Rahm get this stuff from? I thought CPS faces a major deficit and now he thinks there's $345 million sitting around?

January 11, 2011 at 11:03 AM

By: Margaret Wilson

Rahm's statement

I am aware of several discussions over the years of teachers working longer but CPS seemed to think that it should be for the same salary. I have never heard of them offering extra money because if they had most of us would have said yes. I don't see where this extra money would be coming from either.

January 12, 2011 at 10:19 PM

By: Magical Thinking

Engaging In

Here we go again; if Rahm said it it must be true! He's engaging in delusional thinking, again. Why does it seem that everyone is so g-@#dam afaid of this man? Our unions used to have some balls and it's about time we toe to toe with this Rahm a--hole.

As far as $$ for a longer school day, that has been discussed off and on through several contracts. Actually, the last 45 minutes of the school day is a teacher lunch period but they are allowed to leave at that time (45 minutes early, 2:45 rather than 3:30)so lunch break comes at the end of the day rather than in the middle. In the "private" sector I believe it's refered to as 'flex time'.

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