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Kiefer Hickman

Unions: No to Rahm Emanuel

TWU and AFA-CWA are telling Biden not to nominate Emanuel for Transportation post

Brian Young's picture
Dec 04, 2020

Over the last month, unions have been letting the Biden-Harris Transition team know their thoughts about picks for several different departments. UCOMM previously reported that Biden has put 27 officials onto his transition team and is considering two teachers union leaders to run the Education Department. Additionally, he is considering some former union officials to run the Labor Department and three unions have made an endorsement in the race to run the USDA. Now transportation unions are weighing in on who should run the Transportation Department.

After a rumor came out that former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was being considered to run the Transportation Department, two unions vehemently came out in opposition to Emanuel. While Emanuel has a long history in Washington, as both a Congressman and the Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama, it was his work in Chicago that has drawn unions ire. As Mayor, from 2011 to 2019, Emanuel attacked teachers, laying off hundreds and pushing legislation that made it harder for them to strike. He also closed 50 schools and threatened to layoff hundreds of city employees so that he could privatize city services. Under Emanuel, Chicago teachers were forced to strike for the first time in a quarter-century.

Citing his record of fighting with unions, John Samuelson, the President of the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) told The Intercept, “Rahm Emanuel would be a nightmare. And a betrayal. The trade union movement in transportation worked extremely hard to get Joe Biden elected. We didn’t work our asses off to have Rahm Emanuel as the secretary of transportation. He’s anti-trade union, he’s anti-worker.”

TWU endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden in May and their members, especially those in Pennsylvania who work for Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit, rail, and bus system worked extremely hard for Biden. Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs went largely for Biden and delivered him the state and the Presidency.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), also came out against picking Emanuel saying that it was a “complete non-starter.” AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson tweeted about the news as well saying “We do not need a union buster setting the rules for workers in aviation. That just doesn’t reflect @JoeBiden’s deep commitment to workers & our unions.”

Emanuel has also received significant pushback from voters on the left, over his handling of the 2014 officer-involved shooting in Chicago of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Emanuel went to court to prevent the release of the dashcam footage of the incident ahead of his 2015 election.

Crain’s Chicago Business reported last week that Emanuel could also be considered for the U.S. trade representative position, although he is likely to face a similar backlash from organized labor in that position as well.

“I have no doubt in my mind that he would do what any good neoliberal would do, and side with the bosses,” Samuelsen said. “No matter where he lands, whether it’s in transportation or elsewhere, it’s gonna be viewed by the workers that supported Joe Biden as a total betrayal. And it’ll be yet another in a long line of Democratic Party betrayals,” he added. “The truth of the matter is that Rahm Emanuel is the type of Democrat that got Trump elected to begin with.”

While there is a lot of speculation right now about who could be selected for certain roles, it is important to remember that these are just rumors right now and that President-elect Biden has not yet made a public indication that Emanuel is being considered for a high-level position like Transportation Secretary. However, unions like TWU and AFA-CWA are using their considerable power to ensure that this stays as just a rumor and that Emanuel has no place within the Biden Administration.

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