Executive Director Reports

Ulterior motives drive Daley's attack on public employees

Chicago’s Mayor Daley thinks there are too many teachers, librarians, firefighters, people keeping our streets clean and our food and water safe.

On the other hand, he thinks we need more manicurists, blackjack dealers, tobacco farmers and fortune tellers. Well, that’s not what he actually said when he recently addressed his favorite constituency, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the business boys with the big bucks.

But his famous father who preceded him in the mayor’s office admonished the press to report what he meant, not what he said. I know what he said, and I’m darn sure I know what he meant.

What the younger Daley did say is that we need fewer public sector jobs and more jobs in the private sector. It’s a sentiment that on first blush many people might agree with thanks to a steady drumbeat from right-wing politicians and media pundits whose idea of a good time is bloodying up public servants.

However, would we really be better off if the mayor’s desire were fulfilled?

Though I don’t use their services, or buy their products, I have nothing against manicurists, blackjack dealers, tobacco farmers or fortune tellers. And if folks want to avail themselves of these services, I don’t have any problem with them doing so.

But don’t try to tell me that our communities would be better places to live if there were more of them and fewer of us.

Of course, Daley and the other propagandists pushing the notion of the superiority of the business sector might well respond that they weren’t talking about the occupations I’ve noted. But you’ll note that they’re never too specific about just what private-sector jobs they do have in mind.

Perhaps they’re thinking about jobs that produce consumer goods like automobiles, washing machines, home electronic devices and clothing, commodities that we all use and which historically provided good employment opportunities to millions of Americans (thanks in no small part to the heavy union density in those industries). Those jobs were vital to a healthy economy and the well-being of everyone.

The folks who worked at jobs in those sectors, not only were decently compensated for their labors, but thanks to the taxes they paid on their reasonable incomes and those they paid on the consumer purchases they were able to make with to those same salaries, governments generated the revenues needed to supply the health, education and public safety services that citizens wanted.

If those are the jobs Daley is talking about, he’s apparently forgotten that with the help of his brother Bill, who shepherded NAFTA, the first in a long line of bad trade deals that have decimated the U.S. industrial base, through the Congress, those jobs no longer exist here in the heartland.

Many of the domestic jobs that remain have been created in Daley’s “new economy.” By and large they don’t provide the good wages and decent benefits of the now exported manufacturing work, nor do they provide even a modicum of retirement security.

However, Daley and his cronies aren’t pursuing a strategy of restoring the private sector to the compensation levels that produced the largest middle class and made the American economy the envy of the world. Instead they propose to even out the disparities between the public and private sector by driving down the benefits for those of us in the public sector. They want a world in which everyone except those at the very top is forced to get by on a lot less.

After beating down compensation in the private sector, their sights are now set on us.

Thus the unrelenting assault on our pensions and the demands that we pay more for our insurance when we retire.

By their logic if one man lost a limb, rather than provide him with a prosthetic, these guys would lop off a limb from everyone else. If some folks can only see through one eye, then everybody should have limited eyesight.

Of course building resentment against decently compensated workers also serves as a convenient distraction, diverting attention from the obscene levels of salaries, bonuses and perks that the corporate chieftains who’ve sold off so many American jobs lavish on themselves.

If Daley thinks the private sector is so great, instead of denigrating public services, he should go get a job there.