How the Teachers’ Union Robbed Chicago, Again

Writing at National Review, Joshua Culling looks at the details of the Chicago teachers deal: During the Democratic National Convention I wrote about a clear contrast between the policies of Illinois natives Barack Obama and Pat Quinn, and their Wisconsin counterparts, Paul Ryan and Scott Walker. We now have another anti-reformer to add to the Illinois column: Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. The seven-school-day Chicago Teachers Union strike was extensively covered across the country, as teachers walked out of the classroom after rejecting a deal with the city that would have paid them 16 percent more over four years, coupled with a slightly greater weighting of student performance in teacher evaluations. So far as I could tell, the union’s choice was overwhelmingly portrayed in a negative light, with even the New York Times editorial page calling the strike “unnecessary,” positing that union president Karen Lewis “seem[ed] to be basking in the power of having shut down the school system.” It was an opportunity for Emanuel to take a politically popular stand against union largesse while winning serious reforms for his city’s beleaguered budget. It is sad but true that when Democratic leaders push back against unions, they are applauded for moderation, or at least left alone by observers in the media. In 2011, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick and an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature curbed collective bargaining to little fanfare. At the same time, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker pursued a similar path in Madison, but faced thousands of union protesters at his doorstep and the wrath of the New York Times and MSNBC.

None Dare Call it Partisanship

When Republicans in Wisconsin reformed the state's collective bargaining laws, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick rushed to schedule a speech in Wisconsin so he could denounce lawmakers. But when the State House in his own state voted to change the way government employees could bargain for taxpayer benefits he praised the House for its "very important vote." The Wall Street Journal notices the hypocrisy: Scott Walker impressions are popular these days, and the latest and greatest aping of the Wisconsin Governor is coming from the liberal heartland. On Wednesday, the Massachusetts state House voted 111-42 to limit public employees' ability to collectively bargain for health care. Mrs. Trumka, please hide all sharp objects from Richard, the AFL-CIO chief. The bill sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo would change the way teachers, police and other municipal employees bargain for health care, giving mayors and local officials the ability to set co-pays and deductibles after a 30-day negotiation period with the unions. If the unions agree to the mayor's terms, 10% of the savings goes back to the unions. If they object, 20% of the savings goes into a special fund for workers' health-care costs. The reforms, which are expected to save $100 million in the next year, also require retirees to enroll in Medicare. Coming in the bluest of blue states, the news landed like ice water on unions, which are shouting betrayal. "These are the same Democrats that all these labor unions elected, the same Democrats who we contributed to in their campaigns," Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes said. "It's a done deal for our relationship with the people inside that chamber."