CHICAGO (CBS) — Not long after uniting behind Democrat Pat Quinn in the race for governor, Chicago’s labor unions remain split on who to back as the successor to Mayor Richard M. Daley.
As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, more than 250,000 union members live and work in Chicago and organized labor is hugely influential in local politics.
The unions got together to back Quinn against Republican Bill Brady in November, but haven’t gotten together in the race for mayor of Chicago.
The Teamsters have backed Rahm Emanuel. The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Gery Chico on Wednesday. But, so far, the biggest labor unions have been staying on the sidelines, with little more than a month until the election.
The AFL-CIO said it’s not even sure it’ll make an endorsement.
City Clerk Miguel del Valle got the backing of state Sen. William “Willie” Delgado (D-Chicago), state Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D-Chicago) and state Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Chicago) on Wednesday.
Emanuel got backing from a handful of community groups in the Pilsen, Little Village and Humboldt Park areas.
But Chico received the most impressive endorsement on Wednesday, winning the backing of the city’s police union.
Chicago Fraternal Order of Police officials packed the announcement, where Chico was asked to compare the endorsement of the FOP to the one Emanuel got yesterday from former President Bill Clinton.
“Well, Bill Clinton doesn’t vote here, to begin with,” Chico said.
But Chicago FOP President Mark Donahue later acknowledged that a poll of union members showed Chico and Emanuel neck-and-neck.
“It was pretty close, yes,” Donahue said.
Emanuel noted that rank-and-file split, as well as other union support he has picked up.
“It is always helpful to have the support of plumbers and pipefitters, Teamsters, of the people of the city of Chicago, members of the Fraternal Order of Police who are in support of your candidacy,” he said.
But some of the largest, most influential unions have yet to weigh in on the race. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, for example, has seemed less than enchanted with Emanuel, and his support from the business community.
“When he was in the Congress, he didn’t have a bad labor record. However, being an executive is different from being in the legislative branch and we have concerns about the direction he wants to take the city,” AFSCME Council 31 President Henry Bayer said.
Bayer, a veteran, savvy, influential labor leader, said there might be concerns with other candidates as well. And he said there’s a possibility AFSCME won’t endorse anyone.
The AFL-CIO has already made lots of other endorsements in aldermanic and citywide races, but its president said the union is taking a wait-and-see attitude on the race for mayor.