In Chicago, the script has been set and the actors are now left to fight it out. SEIU officials, including its well-paid president Andy Stern, have been trying to flex their muscles after Mayor Richard Daley swatted away the union’s favored “Big Box Living Wage.” The law was intended to pressure discount retailer Wal-Mart, but it set off a firestorm of business and community supporters telling the SEIU and the UFCW where to stick it. But the players have now moved onto the next act: aldermanic elections, which SEIU is trying to influence with its ample cash.
Lynn Sweet, in a Chicago Sun-Timescolumn fawning over Stern, highlighted his main weapon:
The SEIU is on track to spend $2.5 million in selected ward contests by the April 17 runoff elections. Some $1.25 million of that was for the February elections where the SEIU was heavily involved in 11 aldermanic races. Stern’s Washington headquarters sent the SEIU Illinois Council PAC a $250,000 grant for the first round in the wards and a $750,000 loan on March 26 for the runoffs, where the union is a force in nine of the 12 aldermanic elections.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reports, Wal-Mart contributed $100,000 Wednesday to a fund created by Daley’s supporters for aldermanic allies in tightly fought campaigns.
And there are new calls to restrict the amount of union member money that labor bosses can dump into city politics. A powerful voice of support comes from today’s Sun-Times editorial page, which argues:
The idea of limiting union support is the same as the one for limits on lobbyists. You want an elected official who represent the interests of everyone, not just a select group with deep pockets. Unions claim such a limit would restrict the voice of working people, but there is nothing in the proposal that would stop working people from supporting whomever they want.