To the Editor:
Union workers are our neighbors, family members and our community stakeholders that contribute to the economic viability of our neighborhoods, which is why I was deeply honored that a strong coalition of union members and community organizations supported my initial run for public office. After taking two unconstitutional votes to slash the pension benefits of union workers and elderly union retirees, and accepting nearly $200,000 from conservative republican donors, special interest groups and PACs (that were in some cases funded directly by Governor Bruce Rauner), Representative Christian Mitchell asserts he is a leader prepared to protect union workers.
In Representative Mitchell’s recent announcement regarding his bid for re-election, he talks about the need for ‘decisive action’ against Illinois’ ‘union busting’ governor. What is interesting, is that Rep. Mitchell shares at least 25 donors with Governor Bruce Rauner, and continues to accept boat-loads of money from the very interests he claims to be fighting against.
When you support slashing the pensions of elderly retirees and union workers, support the privatization of public schools; and then sit silent as thousands of teachers and school staff are displaced due to mass school closings, you have failed workers, their families and communities. These are the times when union workers need ‘decisive action.’ It is where you stand in those critical moments that determine your mettle, not where you stand when you have the cover of the political establishment. (Note-the Illinois General Assembly was the only legislative body that had the ability to enact a moratorium on school closings.)
One of Mitchell’s contributors, Stand for Children (which has given his campaign $126,000), has been explicit about its desire to undermine the Chicago Teacher’s Union’s right to strike; this intention was explicitly described by Jonah Edelman, (CEO for Stand for Children) in a video-taped discussion regarding Stand for Children’s efforts to undermine the collective bargaining rights of teachers (June 12, 2011). Perhaps this is why Rep. Mitchell neither supported legislation that called for a moratorium on school closings nor legislation that would limit the authority of the Illinois Charter Commission to override the decisions of local school districts when it comes to the proliferation of Charter Schools. This would also explain why he recently refused to vote for legislation that would allow parents to have the ability to ‘opt out’ of excessive high stakes testing, which is the fuel used by the school privatization movement; as the results of these tests are used to close schools and castigate teachers. Lastly, this is also why he has not consistently supported a fully-elected, representative school board – not a hybrid board where the majority of the members are still appointed by the Mayor.
My track record as a champion of working families and union members is clear, consistent, and it did not begin when I decided to run for office. For the last decade, I have worked side-by-side with unions to fight against pension cuts, school closings, the decimation of the African American teaching force, and cuts to social services. I have also worked with unions to win funding to address foreclosures, and on progressive political campaigns. During the last election cycle health care workers, teachers, municipal and state administrative workers, transit workers and other union workers united to support Commissioner Chuy Garcia’s campaign while Rep. Mitchell supported the same Mayor Emanuel who has fired thousands of union workers through closing public institutions and privatization.
At the end of the day, Rep. Mitchell’s campaign is bankrolled by the same billionaire boys club that funded Bruce Rauner’s campaign, which begs the question, “How long can Rep. Mitchell keep up his pro-union charade?’ Is he ‘pro-union’ because he is in a contested race? Will he stand with teachers and school staff the next time they face mass firings?
He took $15,000 from Gov. Rauner’s We Mean Business PAC, and voted to slash the pensions of union workers. He took $170,000 from other special interest groups that support the privatization of public education system, and was mute as thousands of teachers, custodians and other union workers lost their jobs. Rep. Mitchell’s newly acquired zest to fight for unions is because he is facing a challenger that has a consistent track record as someone who fights side-by-side with unions out of a belief that the right to unionize (and the protection of workers that unions provide) are critical to our democracy and the our ability to have economically stable neighborhoods.