Monday, September 17, 2012

Exclusive: In Secret Meeting, Scott Walker Advised Rahm Emanuel To Use "Nuclear Option" Against Striking Teachers

Sept. 17, 2012 - Special Report - In the days just before the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) went on strike (now in its sixth day) Mayor Rahm Emanuel was desperate for a quick solution.

Emanuel was not getting the expected level of support from his own Democratic Party that he had hoped for and so he turned to a neighbor to the north: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, well known for his anti-public sector union legislation.

Sources told Chicago News Bench late yesterday that Emanuel was "very dismayed" early on by contentious negotiations with the CTU. "President Obama indicated that Mayor Emanuel would get no support from the White House," said the source, "but several prominent Republicans phoned the mayor to privately express their support."

One of those Republicans, said the source, was U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc), who later came out publicly to support Emanuel in his fight with the CTU. Ryan is running for Vice President as Mitt Romney's running mate. Another Republican was Gov. Scott Walker, who phoned the mayor in late August to give moral support to Chicago's mayor. It was during that call that Emanuel asked Walker if he would be willing to meet with him in Kenosha, in the southeastern part of Wisconsin just north of the Illinois border.

Our source, a member of Emanuel's mayoral staff, said that the mayor was "pleasantly surprised" when Walker agreed. During the last weekend of August, the two men each flew to Kenosha by helicopter - Walker from Madison, Emanuel from Chicago - and secretly met in a park on the edge of town "for about two hours."

Emanuel told Walker that he planned to allow the CTU to strike for a week, said our source, "just to make it look like he was negotiating in good faith." However, says the source, Emanuel never really planned to agree to all of the demands of the CTU, which the source says Emanuel called "absurd and insulting."

The "Nuclear Option"...

"I was with them," said our source, "walking with them in the park. I was carrying Mayor Emanuel's briefcase and heard the whole conversation. Walker advised Rahm to let it play out, as he put it, for a week and then use what he called the 'nuclear option' of getting an injunction against the union."

In fact, that is what Emanuel did. Lawyers for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) asked a Cook County Circuit Court to order the teachers back to work. CPS says that the strike violates Illinois state law. In its   motion to the court, CPS said that the strike is "a clear and present danger to public health and safety."

"Governor Walker actually told Rahm to use that phrase," said our source. "He said calling the strike a 'clear and present danger' would make it sound all scary and serious. Mayor Emanuel really liked that and said he would pass that on to Chicago School Board President David Vitale."

"Mayor Emanuel felt a lot better about the situation after meeting with Governor Walker," our source said. "I think he's really grateful for the support and the advice." Emanuel and Walker continue to talk regularly on the phone about the developing and still unresolved teachers strike.