Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has a lot to answer for.
Most recently of course there is the controversy surrounding Mr. Emanuel’s handling of a Chicago police officer shooting a black teenager named Laquan McDonald 16 times on Oct. 20, 2014.
Mr. Emanuel was slow to respond, and was initially less than enthusiastic about the prospects of a federal Justice Department investigation into the matter (he has since reluctantly backpedaled on that).
Mr. Emanuel has certainly made his very messy bed, and will be made to lay in it one way or another. But what is less talked about is the role of the police union in the aftermath of the shooting that seemingly allowed a cold-blooded murderer to escape justice.
Chicago Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat Camden initially told the press that Mr. McDonald had posed “a very serious threat to the officers” on the scene, and had lunged at Officer Jason Van Dyke with a knife.
The incident was captured on police dash cam when it happened, so authorities knew right away what the truth was (the public, meanwhile, had to wait over a year for the truth).
Not to mention multiple officers witnessed their colleague shoot a 17 year old in the back while he was walking away, and continued to pump him full of lead after he had collapsed to the pavement, convulsing as the bullets tore into his body.
Nevertheless, the union wasted no time cranking up its PR machine in protection of the shooter. And because the police union is such a powerful force in city politics, the murderer was allowed to sit at a paid desk job for a year, with politicians unwilling or unable to fire him, let alone bring him up on charges (Mr. Van Dyke was finally charged with murder on Nov. 24, 2015 — over a year after the shooting).
It’s a stunning example of the danger of public employee unions. We see it as well in teachers’ unions, which bind schools with so many rules and red tape that educators are often unable by law to fire even the most incompetent or dangerous teachers.
Even Franklin Roosevelt, Big Labor’s patron saint, warned about allowing government workers to unionize, famously writing:
“All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.”
The power of public unions endangers not just the physical safety of individual citizens, but also the integrity of City Hall and therefore trust in government itself, a precious commodity easily squandered and hard to reclaim.
Public unions are also a threat to the fiscal health of a community. When unions contribute to campaigns to help politicians get elected, the very politicians they will be sitting across from at the bargaining table, they are in a sense hiring their own bosses. It therefore comes as no surprise when those politicians give the union bosses everything they ask for and more.
Take for example, Mr. Emanuel’s insane scheme to build a city-owned casino in the heart of Chicago.
The mayor claims such a thing will be necessary to raise money to cover the city’s pension obligations, lest he be forced to raise property taxes. Never mind that he already raised property taxes this October to the tune of $700 million before a casino was even agreed to. And never mind that employees of a government-owned casino would presumably be government employees and therefore add to the public pension problem he is trying to solve.
So what union would benefit? It’s not hard to guess: Service industry union Unite Here has been ubiquitous with its obnoxious “Rahm Love” ad campaign, and has been one of the few unions openly supporting Rahm after his tangle with Chicago’s teachers a few years ago.
Casino jobs for campaign supporters. Public gifts to private friends. Malfeasance covered up.
Unions win. We lose.
• Matt Patterson is executive director at the Center for Worker Freedom, a special project of Americans for Tax Reform.