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Waging War on Chicago Workers

by Stephen Lendman Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011 at 1:54 AM

labor struggles

Waging War on Chicago Workers - by Stephen Lendman

In Washington, Obama, Democrats and Republicans are doing it. In Wisconsin and other states, so are Governor Scott Walker, other governors, and mayors across America - planning major social benefits cuts and other ways to address budget shortfalls through layoffs, fewer services, and other draconian measures on the backs of working people, ones least able to afford them.

At the same time, America's aristocracy is thriving, benefitting largely from tax cuts, other benefits, and bipartisan complicity to reward them by exemption from planned austerity when stimulus, job creation, and other populist measures are needed, including for Chicagoans facing hard times. Instead, all major mayoral candidates promise worker sacrifices to benefit business and city elites.

On February 22, voters will choose a new mayor. Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel holds a commanding lead, numerous polls confirming it against:

-- former Senator Carol Moseley Braun;

-- former Richard Daley chief of staff and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Board of Trustees president Gery Chico;

-- former state senator and current Chicago city clerk Miguel del Valle;

-- former Harold Washington aide, once Rainbow/PUSH national political director, and current Committee For A Better Chicago William "Dock" Walls III; and

-- Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, Executive Director of TARGET Area DevCorp, a self-styled regional grassroots social justice organization.

Odds favor either a first-round Emanuel win or a clear April 5 runoff one if he gets less than a majority. Either way, Chicagoans will be cheated by a man promising draconian cuts as mayor. Unfortunately, so are the other major candidates faced with an estimated $1 billion city budget shortfall.

Emanual, however, is ruthless, his record in Congress and as White House chief of staff proof of what's coming, a regime worse than his predecessor, Richard M. Daley, Chicago's long serving mayor, retiring after six terms (April 24, 1989 - through May 16, 2011).

Emanuel promises draconian cuts affecting city workers, saying "in attacking our budget deficit, there must be no sacred cows."

Included are public worker retirement pensions, Emanuel proposing a two-tier system to dramatically cut them for most city employees and raise the retirement eligibility age. His web site (chicagoforrahm.com) presents a "Government Reinvention and Fiscal Sustainability Agenda," addressing his proposal to deal with the city's budget crisis, saying:

"Chicago will have to make tough choices" by forcing "more than $500 million in efficiencies" on the backs of working Chicagoans already struggling to get by when they need help, not greater sacrifice they can't afford.

Nonetheless, Emanual will freeze spending "on day one," directing department heads to produce a slash and burn plan in 60 days, cutting millions of dollars from current budget levels. City managers will be held accountable "for meeting or beating" cost reduction goals, their jobs, in fact, at stake for failing.

Moreover, "Chicago's bureaucracy is outdated (and) inefficient," Emanuel says. He'll improve it by layoffs and other harsh measures to better serve Chicago elites and and local business, his only concern in Congress, as White House chief of staff and for Chicagoans as mayor if elected.

He also pledged war on public education. Begun under former Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Arne Duncan, he's now Obama's education secretary, doing for America what he did to Chicago, managing ObamaEd, his Race to the Top scheme linking federal funding to compliance with 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 it for Chicago, going further perhaps than Duncan, including banning collective bargaining rights and teacher strikes, the same core issue infuriating Wisconsin state workers trying to save them and other hard-won benefits, on the chopping block for eventual elimination.

Yet Emanuel told Chicago's Sun Times:

"As we (prohibit strikes by) police and firefighters, I would have it for teachers because they provide an essential service." So do trash collectors, snow plow operators in winter, family and support service workers, ones in public health, streets and sanitation, and numerous other city departments, causing great hardships if shut down, even temporarily.

Nonetheless, an Illinois General Assembly Performance Counts Act provision prohibited teachers from striking by decertifying participating unions. Another stripped their bargaining rights for contracting out, layoffs, school closures, class size, staffing, school day length, pilot and experimental programs, technology use, and other measures gutting good education practices.

In early February, it was defeated, but expect sponsors to try again as part of a grander scheme to privatize public education, what Emanuel wholeheartedly endorses for Chicago.

Two earlier articles discussed him in detail, showing what Chicagoans can expect. Access them through the following links:



Expect a similar agenda no matter who's elected. Gery Chico, as Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Board of Trustees president (1995 - 2001) began closures and privatizations. Moreover, his law firm at the time handled negotiations for $577 million with CPS. In a Chicago Crain's Business interview, he said the city must do more to attract business, proposing deregulation, tax and fee cuts to do it. He also wants corporations given unused city properties as incentive to move here, as well as city employee pension cuts, and other anti-worker measures implemented.

Carol Moseley Braun is just as extreme, earmarking "nonessential" services and subsidies for elimination as well as privatizing public education. Remarkably, local media reports called her Chicago's "left wing" candidate.

The others have little support, yet mostly endorse the same agenda as Emanuel. Chico and Moseley Braun especially are competing with him for who'll win Chicago's race to the bottom favoring business and local elites whoever wins. As for del Valle, he wants deep personnel cuts, except for police ranks increased. Walls favors all non-essential public spending frozen, and city police mobilized in a show of force under so-called "state of emergencies" he endorses.

For decades, Chicago's business community profited handsomely under father and son Daley and other city mayors in between. No matter who next heads city government, they're comfortable knowing nothing ahead will change, except Chicago workers facing harder than ever hard times ahead, the city's broad shoulders affording them no space.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 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.

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