How Union Pension Scandal Helps Emanuel - NBC Chicago
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How Union Pension Scandal Helps Emanuel



    How Union Pension Scandal Helps Emanuel
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    Emanuel met with Rep. Mike Quigley in the nation's capital on Wednesday. In response to Emanuel's potential mayor bid, Quigley said Emanuel "left the impression he's running."

    Anyone looking for differences between the Emanuel Administration and the Daley Administration should read the Chicago Tribune editorial he re-tweeted on his @ChicagoMayor feed over the weekend.

    Titled “Yes, this is corrupt,” it details how then-state Sens. John Daley and Jeremiah Joyce, both D-Machine, passed a 1991 bill that allowed labor leaders to receive a public pension based on their salaries with the union, not the city.

    At the time, Mayor Richard M. Daley was running for re-election. Still far from secure in his power, he needed the assistance of the unions. Thanks in part to his brother’s work in Springfield, he got it.

    Now, the bill for the unions’ support of Daley has come due. Former Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon is drawing a $158,258 pension off a $55,474 job, based on the fact that he was rehired for one day in 1994. One of Daley’s oldest allies, Gannon supported the mayor when he ran against Jane Byrne in 1983, although they finally split over the Big Box Ordinance in 2007.

    Twenty years later, as the Tribune and WGN-TV reported last week, 23 retired union officials from Chicago stand to collect about $56 million from two ailing city pension funds, thanks to the 1991 law. More union officials evidently are in the pipeline to receive the lavish benefits included in that legislation.

    The Tribune is not a union-friendly paper, and Emanuel is not a union-friendly mayor. His rise within the Democratic Party has coincided with the unions’ decline, and their replacement by bankers and financiers as a source of support. An earlier generation of Democrats hobnobbed with AFL-CIO president George Meany. Today’s Democrats seek out billionaire George Soros. Unions are a threat to Emanuel’s power. They opposed him in the mayoral election, they prevent him from unilaterally imposing work rules on city departments, and pensions such as Gannon’s make it difficult to bring financial order to Chicago, which he must do to reassure the business interests he expects to fund his run for higher office.

    To impress those business interests, Emanuel also has to rein in the unions. Which is why he is so eager to capitalize on this scandal left over from the Daley Era. 

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