Standing by their man: Chicago Federation of Labor president still has Madigan’s back
“The people that you’ve worked with to help make everyday peoples’ lives better — you can’t just walk away from that situation,” said Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor.
Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter on Thursday voiced unwavering support for embattled Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, even though a new federal indictment plunges deeper into Madigan’s once impervious inner-circle.
Reiter reaffirmed the labor movement’s support for its Springfield champion one day after former lawmaker-turned-Commonwealth Edison lobbyist Michael McClain, one of the speaker’s closest confidants, was one of four people charged with participating in a bribery scheme.
“The people that you’ve worked with to help make everyday peoples’ lives better — you can’t just walk away from that situation. Especially in a situation like this where there’s this appearance that’s been created that may, in fact, be divorced from actual reality,” Reiter told the Sun-Times Thursday.
“We have one of the strongest prevailing wages in the country. We have card-check neutrality in the public sector. … We have some of the strongest laws to protect everyday working people, which is one of the reasons why we have such a strong working class. Mike Madigan, Speaker Madigan, has helped lead the way. … I really can’t speak to what’s going on with Mr. McClain. … But I can tell you that, in terms of the things that we work on in Springfield, we’ve seen a lot of support for blue-collar Chicago. And that hasn’t changed.”
The Chicago Federation of Labor has an ownership stake in Sun-Times Media.
McClain, former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore and former ComEd lobbyists John Hooker and Jay Doherty, former president of the City Club of Chicago, all were accused of participating in a bribery scheme designed to curry favor with Madigan in exchange for his support for legislation benefitting the utility.
The allegations closely track those in a deferred prosecution agreement that required ComEd to pay a $200 million fine and cooperate with the continuing investigation that clearly targets Madigan.
Even before this week’s bombshell indictment, Madigan was under fire to relinquish his dual role as speaker of the House and chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois’ U.S. senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, all have pressured Madigan to step down as state Democratic chairman, citing the party’s losses in the Nov. 3 election. That includes the defeat of a constitutional amendment that would have authorized Pritzker’s signature push for a graduated income tax and the failed effort to retain Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride.
Several Democratic lawmakers also have demanded that Madigan be deposed as speaker. If a few more join them, Madigan will be dangerously close to losing the speaker’s job he has held for decades.
On Thursday, Reiter made it clear labor will help Madigan line up the 60 votes he needs to keep that job.
Reiter is an attorney who prides himself on “analyzing facts as they’ve been presented.” He’s also a self-described “blue collar kid” who grew up in the Lockport-Joliet area. His mom was an emergency room nurse. His dad was a heavy equipment operator.
It is through those “two lenses” that he views the smoke surrounding Madigan and the political liability he has become.
“When I look through the blue-collar kid’s lens, I see people in Springfield who have fought to protect people like my parents. Who fought to protect people on the South and the West side of the city to create opportunities for working people. And then, when I look at it through the lens of that blue-collar kid who was fortunate enough to go to law school here in the city, my view on things doesn’t change,” he said.
“You need to support the people who continue to support you. And there is nothing so far that has shaken me off of that stance.”