THE ANSWER to the question asked during the strike’s first day on Monday was answered in Wisconsin by Democrats who fielded an anti-union candidate in Tom Barrett. It was seconded during President Obama’s first term when he put no weight behind EFCA. But it shouldn’t be discounted the support in the jobs act for police and firemen, with lip service in speeches that ring out. However, on education, Obama answers the question from the teachers union on charter schools with an “incubators of innovation” refrain, which Secretary Arne Duncan represents.
If Rahm Emanuel bests the teachers union in labor intensive Chicago, where Obama-Biden is headquartered, the conservative economic priorities of President Obama will finally be seen in the right light.
The battle underlines just how much teachers’ unions, which have provided sizable donations and many grass-roots volunteers to countless Democratic campaigns, have been thrown back on their heels in recent years.
If the famously feisty Mr. Emanuel wins this confrontation, he could set the table for a major setback for teachers’ unions nationwide and a potential rethinking of teachers’ enthusiasm for Democrats in this year’s elections. Advocates of sweeping education changes like Michelle Rhee, the former head of the school system in Washington, will be able to declare that if Chicago’s mighty union was willing to accept such changes, so should teachers’ union locals across the nation.
The role of labor in our lives continues to diminish and no one has an answer for what that means to the middle class and how without unions wages will rise.
The Democratic Party has been mute, absent or ineffectual on the subject for years, with the challenge unions face certainly not President Obama’s fault. But he’s done nothing to bolster the history that labor began the rise of the middle class and the notion that upward mobility could happen for generations that came next.