Public employees in Chicago are learning the hard way what Via Meadia has had the poor taste to point out for some time now – that their smug union leaders no longer have the ability to preserve their members’ benefits. As formerly friendly Democratic pols turn on the public sector unions, union members are jumping ship. As the NYT puts it:
One by one, teachers at public elementary schools here have been voting to buck their own union and take Mayor Rahm Emanuel up on an unusual offer: to accept bonus pay in exchange for waiving union contract provisions and keeping children at some schools longer each day. […]Mr. Emanuel and his top aides say that when it comes to hours of class instruction, Chicago’s 482 public elementary schools compare unfavorably with schools in other cities, including Houston, Los Angeles and New York. They say they merely want children to spend more time learning at school — a notion supported by plenty of parents.Union leaders suggest a broader motive, saying that the sidelining of labor unions and a mood against public workers seen this year in Republican-led states like Ohio and Wisconsin are now coming through in subtler ways in Democratic-leaning cities like this one, the nation’s third largest.“It’s a nightmare,” said Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, who added that Mr. Emanuel lived up to his reputation for foul language in a recent meeting in his stately office at City Hall. “You expect this stuff out of Republicans.”
Unfortunately for union leaders, the GOP no longer has a monopoly on skepticism towards public employee unions. The Democrats who could previously be counted on to deliver the unsustainable benefits unions crave are now finding creative ways to circumvent their influence. Union leaders flail in paroxysms of rage as their massive campaign contributions to Democrats buy ever less influence – and as their influence declines, so will their membership and the dues that come with it. However much Rahm Emanuel may cheapen public discourse by his unnecessary, faux-macho vulgarity, he is doing what he set out to do and providing solutions that voters want:
[Emanuel] added: “This is what I said I was going to do, and I’m doing it. I’m actually executing exactly what I said I was going to do on the campaign, which is what people voted for. I didn’t do a bait-and-switch.”
Just as Democrats finally came to support welfare reform they once opposed, so are more and more waking up to the perils of over-mighty public unions. There is no other politically sustainable or economically viable course.