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More unions endorse Chico, bash Emanuel

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Labor leaders criticized this ad by Rahm Emanuel, accusing it of demonizing city workers.

Updated: March 9, 2011 12:19AM



Mayoral hopeful Gery Chico on Monday picked up the endorsement of seven more labor unions whose leaders accused rival candidate Rahm Emanuel of threatening their pensions and “demonizing” city employees.

What infuriated the labor leaders is an Emanuel campaign commercial in which the candidate appears to lecture city employees about the meaning of public service.

In it, Emanuel states that City Hall “is not an employment agency. ... It is delivering a service to the residents and taxpayers of the city. I want that mind set to be different. ... That means making sure that everybody [who] works for city government knows they’re actually a public servant representing and helping the people [who] pay them.”

Union leaders whose members worked around-the-clock to dig the city out of its third-largest snowstorm were incredulous.

“Somehow Chicago employees have become the demons in this election. ... It’s a travesty,” said Jim Sweeney, business manager of Operating Engineers Local 150, at a raucous news conference at Painters District Council # 14, 1456 W. Adams.

“We know the city faces problems. We want to be there to help solve those problems. But, we don’t want it dictated to us. ... We are not the problem. We are the solution. Rahm Emanuel does not understand that. Gery Chico does. That’s what we need: someone who will listen to the ... people who pull people out of those cars on Lake Shore Drive in a blizzard — those same people that Rahm Emanuel wants to demonize.”

Chico acknowledged that there is “no guarantee” that the pension benefits of existing city employees will not have to be modified to solve the city’s pension crisis if he’s elected mayor.

But, he said, “I’m not gonna start with a preconceived notion that these are bad people. I’m not gonna run a commercial that says, ‘You better know what it’s like to be a public servant’ four days after the firefighters were on a snowmobile pulling people out of a harrowing situation. Who would do that? You should be thanking these people. How do you run a commercial [lecturing them], then go onto the airfield and hand ‘em coffee?”

Candidate Miguel del Valle called it “disingenuous” for Emanuel to air an ad saying City Hall is not an “employment agency.”

“When Rahm wanted his patronage army to get elected in 2002, it didn’t bother him. He gladly accepted their help,” del Valle said. “He was aware these troops were being sent by City Hall. Today he denies it. Now he talks about the city not being an employment agency when he knows he was a beneficiary of the past system that led to the kind of actions that had to be taken by the courts. So it’s very disingenuous of him to now cut an ad to make it look as though workers are just interested in a job and a salary.”

Emanuel said he was not asking anything from police, firefighters and teachers that he would not be asking from himself as mayor.

“I don’t think it’s a radical idea to express the vision that taxpayers are the people we are all beholden to. And I’m proud of what people do every day in this city, and they do it well,” Emanuel said at a Bucktown charter school where he picked up the endorsement from Secretary of State Jesse White.

“A lot of people already have that mind set, but it would be a change throughout to make sure we keep in mind our focus, and I say throw the mayor and everybody the mayor would appoint and others into that bucket — that we will have the mind set that the people who pay the bills are the people we are all beholden to.”

Although the Chicago Federation of Labor has taken a pass on the Feb. 22 election, Chico has clearly emerged as the favorite of organized labor.

He had already lined up support from police and fire unions whose members and retirees total 25,000. On Monday, he added seven more unions: Laborers District Council; Painters District Council #14; Operating Engineers #150; Iron Workers Local 1; Roofers Local #11; IBEW Local 9 and Sheet Metal Workers #73.

The seven unions have a combined membership of 60,000, according to the Chico campaign.

Emanuel’s labor support is confined to four major unions: Teamsters Joint Council 25; Ironworkers Local #63; the Plumbers and Pipefitters; and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers District Council #1.



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