Chicago Mayor Emanuel Gives Unions a Choice: Concessions or Layoffs

Leaders of government employee unions must be feeling lonely these days. Across the country, Democratic state and local elected officials — traditional union allies — are asking their public employee unions for concessions, in order to bring their governments’ finances under control.

This week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, presented the unions representing city employees with a tough choice: Agree to cost-saving concessions or endure layoffs. Emanuel said he had identified the first 625 employees who would face layoffs if the unions do not agree to concessions.

This trend could continue if voters reward those politicians who impose budget discipline, taking on entrenched union interests. As William Kovacs and I note in the new issue of Labor Watch, economic reality is finally winning out over politics in some areas.

To gain some measure of control over their runaway public ?nances, Democrat-controlled states are acknowledging that they will have to make tough decisions that Big Labor will hate. Despite accepting millions of dollars in union campaign contributions, some Democratic of? ceholders are ignoring Big Labor’s demands. They are seeking budget cuts and union concessions.

“Public unions have a symbiotic relationship with the Democratic Party,“ observes Manhattan Institute senior fellow Daniel DiSalvo. “They provide essential campaign dollars and boots on the ground to Democratic candidates. … Therefore, most efforts to alter collective bargaining rules, to give government managers greater autonomy to innovate, or to reduce the costs of compensation, are likely to come from Republicans.”

However, DiSalvo has noticed that larger changes are taking place. Writing in  The Washington Examiner, he argues that, “[T]here are outside forces that may make reform inevitable. Global competition and technological innovation will demand it. That is if the huge unfunded liabilities for pensions and health care don’t catch up with state and local governments ?rst.”

For more on the divisions between Democrats and government employee unions, see here.