Police Abuse

Rahm Emanuel's—and Chicago's—Public-Sector Union Problems

The same groups that give big-city Democrats political power make it nearly impossible to reform bad practices.


In his Sunday USA Today column, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit and University of Tennessee Law School channels Walter Russell Mead, who has noted that public-sector unions simultaneously provide big-city Democrats with patronage-fueled political power and make it next to impossible to reform things when problems (inevitably) arise.

This is especially true in Chicago, writes Reynolds, where embattled Mayor Rahm Emanuel is drowning between a rock and a hard place as financial woes and police-abuse scandals mount.

As in most large, Democratic cities, the police and other city workers are unionized and, effectively, almost impossible to fire. As Mead notes, "There is a harsh conflict of interest between the city's employees and the city's voters. … It is in the interests of public sector unions to shelter employees from oversight and threats to their job security, regardless of how well they perform."

And, also like most large blue jurisdictions (and some red ones), Chicago is in financial trouble, not least because of the high pensions secured by those unionized workers, pensions that the city can't really afford to pay. In May, Moody's downgraded Chicago's credit rating to "junk," with a negative outlook, based on this and other problems.

If Emanuel gives the Black Lives Matter protesters what they want, politically powerful police unions will be angry and, if it looks like crime will rise, more businesses and taxpayers will flee the city, making bankruptcy more likely. If he doesn't give in, then he'll face more protests and unrest, which will probably lead to more businesses and taxpayers fleeing the city, also making bankruptcy more likely.

Read the whole thing.

At Reason, Ed Krayewski has been out front and loud in discussing the generally underappreciated role of unions in police-abuse scandals. Check out his piece from a few weeks ago on the matter here.

NEXT: The Absurdly Harsh Penalties That Sparked the Oregon Rancher Protest

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  1. No way should we expect allowing political donors to write their own retirement policies, establish separate justice systems and determine who will have oversight of them to end up with negative consequences. That’s just teabaggery!

    1. It was never intended, so something else must have been the cause.

      1. It was intended, Rahm has one constituency he needs to keep happy to stay elected

  2. one aspect of this that deserves more scrutiny, are the timing and format of elections. In chicago run-off non partisan elections are held off year (2015) and in February. This undoubtedly leads to lower voter turnout increasing the influence of the public union members. Boston has run-off non partisan elections held off year (2013) I wonder how many cities have similar formats to suppress voter turnout and increase public union influence. I find it interesting that republicans have never called them on this, considering how many times they are accused of suppressing voters.

    1. one other thing both boston and chicago require public union members to live in the city or presumably at least maintain an address and voter registration

      1. “suppress voter turnout”

        Suppress? More like hope for the expected lower voter interest and turnout.

    2. Los Angeles has off year elections, as does New York City, Houston, and Philadelphia.

      Houston might explain why the GOP doesn’t call the Democrats on this.

  3. Markets are getting/gonna get hammered today. Going to make Rahm’s job a wee bit harder balancing those books.

  4. A political hack who got in way over his head.

    1. A moronic desire for power. Any rational person could see these issues with Chicago before Rahm was elected.

  5. You can’t maintain a city that is poor-friendly (and hence minority-friendly) and has strong public sector unions while still remaining financially viable. The math just doesn’t work out.

    1. You can it keep it tottering along if your city is the base of a fantastically-profitable finance sector and a magnet for very rich people.

      1. Not in the long run. Those rich people and that finance sector want certain things from their city. And if they’re stuck paying through the nose for both the public sector unions and programs for the poor without being delivered those “quality of life” services, they’ll quickly enough move on for greener pastures.

  6. It’s not like either the FOP or the BLM crowd are going to vote Republican, so why should Chicago’s head crook give a shit?


  7. My objection to all this is, well, Rahm’s tie. Jebus, man, who told you it was supposed to hang to your knees. Middle of the belt buckle, already!

    1. I’m ashamed to admit I had a similar thought.

  8. Knowing that Rahm Emmanuel was anointed the savior of Illinois nearly twenty years ago – for what reason I cannot fathom as he has never been anything but a loudmouthed political crook his entire life – I am perversely pleased that he is getting his just desserts. Anything less than his suicide will be a disappointment.

  9. BLM vs unions seems like a false dichotomy, given that they both stand for small minorities of opinions and interests; what about doing what neither wants and instead doing what’s best for the voters and the people? Or is that too radical a concept?

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