Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Bill Brady, Rahm Emanuel, and the Rogering of the Unions

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Bill Brady, Rahm Emanuel, and the Rogering of the Unions
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The unexpurgated Rahm Emanuel is fond of telling his enemies -- and even his friends -- to go f*** themselves. He sometimes ends phone calls with “f*** you. I love you.” He’s like a one-man performance of Scarface. ("That woman's bill is so polluted...")
 
According to Overhaul, Obama administration car czar Steven Rattner’s account of the auto bailout, Emanuel blurted out “F*** the UAW” during discussions over saving thousands of union jobs.

A practiced bully, Emanuel knows who he can and cannot pick on. And unions are a pretty safe target these days.

Bill Brady would never express himself so crudely, but he’s also been telling the unions to go f*** themselves, too. Brady’s spokeswoman, Patty Schuh, told the State Journal-Register that her boss finds right-to-work laws “an intriguing concept.” Right to work laws, which are in place in 22 Southern and Western states, prevent unions from requiring membership from employees of a shop they’ve organized. Labor calls them “right to work for free laws.”

 “I support right to work,’” Brady told a group of labor leaders this year. “‘I think it’s the way to go. It’ll never pass … But I support it.”

But you’d expect that from a Republican, right? The same article contrasts Brady with former Gov. Jim Thompson, who in 1981 told a union rally, “You have my pledge … not to let one single anti-labor bill escape from my desk with my signature.”

Those derisive comments from the men who may be the next mayor of Chicago and governor of Illinois just indicate how much labor’s influence has dwindled in the last 30 years. In the 1970s, unions represented 24 percent of American workers. George Meany, Frank Fitzsimmons and Jimmy Hoffa were household names, interviewed on Sunday morning news programs and courted by Democratic politicians. Meany and Mayor Richard J. Daley symbolized the Democratic Party establishment. Now, after three decades of exporting manufacturing jobs to foreign countries, only 12 percent of workers belong to a union. The president of the AFL-CIO is anonymous and nearly powerless. This year, the unions lost their campaign to keep Walmart out of Chicago.

Rahm Emanuel can say “F*** the UAW” because he belongs to the wing of well-educated professionals who displaced the union bosses as powers that be inside the Democratic Party.

Emanuel grew up in the posh suburb of Wilmette, where you’re unlikely to find a trade unionist, and was an aide to Bill Clinton, who signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. After leaving the White House, Emanuel earned $18 million as an investment banker -- not the kind of job where you get your hands dirty.

You think 2010 was bad for unions in Chicago? 2011 could be even worse.

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