Obama has carefully stayed neutral. I don’t expect him to weigh in yet. He will stay neutral as long as he can. Probably most of the congressional Democrats will as well. If it goes longer, nationally they’ll have to start taking sides.
DICK SIMPSON, politics professor at the University of Illinois, on the President’s and congressional Democrats’ relative silence on the Chicago teachers’ strike.
It’s not just a headache for Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel: what goes down in the Windy City could have national ramifications for the Dems nationwide. But exactly what those ramifications will be is yet unclear.
Take what’s happened already: in Wisconsin, we’ve seen conservatives win the first and second rounds of a pitched battle over collective bargaining rights, only to have a court rule that Republican Scott Walker’s union-busting (let’s call it what it is) law was unconstitutional. In New York, Dem governor Andrew Cuomo hasn’t exactly enjoyed favorite son status among public sector unions, having held firm on pension cuts and later signing off on a sticking point with Chicago’s educators — revamped teacher evaluation processes — before relenting and taking steps to scale back how much of that data would be made available to the public.
In both cases, Democrats haven’t appeared to make much noise to rally the cause — which seems to give the party overall, including the President, some cover when choosing to distance themselves from the issue at hand in Chicago.
But the teachers’ strike has now entered a second week and the fight between Mayor Emanuel and the unions is now in court, and the rhetoric on both sides, simmering to this point, could get ugly. Unions nationwide, many of their members already disappointed by the Obama administration and his campaign, will doubtlessly become more vocal as each day passes without Chicago’s public students in school.
The Democrats may be content with a pass / fail grade on union issues right now. But one thing has become evident: in recent times, the party of labor has been conspicuously absent from class.
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