- James Foster/Sun-Times Media
- Mayor Emanuel is playing favorites with unions.
With teachers and Mayor Rahm at an impasse on their contract negotiations, I think the time has come for firefighters and cops to thank my man Sam Holloway for their relative good fortune.
Holloway’s the Chicago firefighter who stood up to Mayor Rahm a few years ago and basically told the mayor—to his face—that if he wanted to solve the city’s so-called financial crisis, all he had to do was tax transactions at Mercantile Exchange.
So don’t be talking about cutting our pensions, you pint-sized motherf . . .
Actually, Holloway’s much too polite to cuss out anyone, including the mayor.
But his showdown with Rahm took place in the early days of the Emanuel reign when the mayor was strutting his stuff as a union basher.
Mostly by claiming the sky’s falling, fiscally speaking, and we have no choice but to fire city workers and slice their pensions—even if the cuts hurt.
Not that it would ever hurt Mayor Emanuel.
There were three major unions to confront: police, firefighters, and teachers. Curiously, the mayor had different approaches to each.
Apparently, he didn’t know what to do about the cops, as he more or less left them alone.
In contrast he openly declared war on the teachers’ union—as I’ve discussed a few times.
But he was kind of wishy-washy with the firefighters. He was a little reluctant to come right out and treat them as harshly as teachers.
It was more like he was testing the waters—to see what he could get away with.
Hence, the infamous fire station drop-ins. He’d show up unannounced—bodyguards in tow—to tell the firefighters that as much as he loved them, he had no choice but to cut their pensions.
It was during one such visit in November of 2012 when Holloway told Rahm that actually he, the mayor, did have a choice—he could institute a transaction tax.
To which the mayor said something like thanks but no thanks and got the hell out.
So ended the mayor’s infamous fire station drop-ins—at least, the part where he talked about cutting pensions.
Obviously, the mayor—who’s pretty crafty when it comes to politics—figured it might not be a good idea to stir up the firefighters, what with him already waging war against the teachers.
Especially if that might encourage firefighters to talk about slapping a tax on Wall and/or LaSalle Street.
Oh, the mayor made them sweat for a couple of years of negotiations, but last summer he miraculously found the money to give the cops and firefighters a new contract. Raises included.
Plus, he’s found the money to make contribution to their pensions.
It’s amazing what miracles can occur when firefighters start talking about taxing LaSalle Street.
But teachers? Like I said, they’re at an impasse in negotiations.
The mayor not only wants them to do without a raise. He wants the right to change the cockamamy teacher evaluation system CPS uses so it’s easier to fire them.
‘Cause nothing helps kids like firing their teachers.
Moreover, the mayor’s not sure he can come up with the money to make good on what the city owes the teachers’ pension fund.
The best he can offer is that—in exchange for agreeing to the contract—the teachers come with him to Springfield, where they can all beg Governor Rauner to give the mayor more time to figure out how to make good on the pension obligations.
Such a deal!
All of this raises the question: Why do so many politicians—like Mayor Emanuel and Governor Rauner and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, for that matter—have different standards for unions of cops and firefighters as opposed to teachers’ unions?
Governors Walker and Rauner exempted cops and firefighters from their assaults on unions.
I’ve heard several theories.
One cop told me: “It’s cause we’re armed and the teachers aren’t.”
He smiled when he said it, so I’m pretty sure he was joking.
Many teachers—both men and women—tell me they think it has something to do with the fact that their union is mostly made up of women.
I think they’re on to something.
My guess is that somewhere in the back of their minds Rahm and Rauner and Walker have concluded it’s easier to fight a union of women than it is to take on a union of men.
Let’s face it, people—as far as society has come, we still have a long way to go.