Union bosses love taxpayers' wallets

What's your pension like?

Back then, there was no debate. No official state analysis. And that's the way our politicians like it. And two decades later, some 23 bosses stand to draw $56 million from two weakened City of Chicago pension funds.

After I read Grotto's reporting, I was so angry I could hardly see. Desperate people are out of work in Illinois.

There are hardworking union people who never got such sweet pensions. There are coal miners in southern Illinois who've watched their fathers spit out pieces of their lungs and live on chicken feed pensions, and then the mines close and there's no work.

And there are hardworking nonunion employees who don't have such perks. And taxpayers who are getting squeezed don't have such perks. What do taxpayers get? Some get to lose their homes, and they'll be lucky to have dog food to eat if they live to be old.

But the winners will be just fine.

Unfortunately, the winners aren't holding news conferences to take the credit. And the guys who made it happen aren't holding news conferences either. So let me help the bashful boys:

The mayor of Chicago in 1991 was Richard M. Daley. He'd rule for years. He not only had labor peace, he could send out union muscle to elect his candidates, from judges to governors and even then-U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who has since received a promotion. In his new job, no longer the union beneficiary but the antagonist, Emanuel realizes that all the money is gone.

But during those decades of labor peace, Daley was boss and his brothers prospered, becoming wealthy in banking, insurance and zoning law.

The speaker of the Illinois House was Michael Madigan. He's still speaker. He's been speaker for most, if not all, of your lifetime, as he's built up his own fortune reducing taxes for downtown real estate barons. He wants organized labor to help his daughter become governor someday.

The governor who signed the bill was Big Jim Thompson on his last day in office. A Republican, Thompson has always gotten along splendidly with Democrats. So who says there's no bipartisan Combine?

One of the politicians who used legislative sleight-of-hand to pave the way for the deal was then-state Sen. Jeremiah Joyce, one-half of Daley's political brain, who later became Mr. O'Hare for all the influence he had in contracts at the airport. Joyce didn't talk to the Tribune for the story.

But Cook County Commissioner John Daley, the mayor's little brother, was a state senator from Bridgeport in 1991. He told Grotto that he didn't remember the bill.

"I don't recall at all," said Johnny.

Johnny, Johnny, oh, Johnny. Doesn't the real phrase go like this?

At this point in time, to the best of my knowledge, I can't recall.

At least, that's what they must say in a "realistic" TV drama, when some "powerful" Chicago politician, usually a black guy, is about to get hauled before a grand jury.

Like I said, it's probably not illegal.

But it sure is Illinois.