Unite Here Local 1 unveils “Rahm Love” campaign
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The four-letter words “Rahm” and “love” may seem like an oxymoron, but that’s the slogan of a new, six-figure advertising campaign by the union that represents 15,000 hospitality workers.
On Monday, the mayor far better known more for his tough-guy approach appeared with Unite Here Local 1 members dressed in “Rahm Love” T-shirts to unveil three new television commercials featuring African-American airport and hotel employees touting Emanuel as their political champion.
“Rahm love. It’s how the mayor fights so that hotel workers earn a decent living. We have health insurance, pensions and sick days off. We have Rahm love,” Roushaunda Williams, a 15-year-veteran bartender at the Palmer House Hilton, is quoted as saying in one 15-second commercial.
In another commercial bankrolled by Unite Here, Tamekah Shivers, a nine-year veteran Starbucks barista at O’Hare Airport, is quoted: “Airport workers? We call it, `Rahm love.’ The mayor’s a tough guy who stood up for us and raised our pay. Rahm love feeds the kids and respects my work.”
The final commercial stars Bertha McGee, who has spent the last 21 years as a McCormick Place cashier.
“We wait on people all day long. But we didn’t have to wait for Rahm. He came to us and then he fought like you-know-what to help us. That’s `Rahm love,’ ” McGee says.
Last fall, Emanuel signed an executive order requiring city contractors to pay their employees $13 an hour — nine percent more than the $11.93 previously required — and broadened the “living wage” umbrella to include airport concessionaires.
After a judge overturned concessions mandated by the Illinois General Assembly, Emanuel also brokered cost-cutting work rule changes with McCormick Place unions that drew new, renewed or extended conventions to McCormick Place.
Emanuel’s decision to build a 10,000-seat basketball arena for DePaul University that will double as an event center for McCormick Place and his plan to push once again for an elusive, government-owned Chicago casino could also mean more members for Unite Here Local 1.
On Monday, Emanuel joined Unite Here leaders and members at the union’s South Loop headquarters at an event that marked the official launch of the “Rahm Love” campaign.
It was a chance for the mayor to respond to critics who contend that his re-election campaign has raked in an obscene $20 million from the likes of “one-percenters” like billionaire Ken Griffin.
“None of these people look like Ken Griffin to me. They look like the people that are building a Chicago. They look like the people that make sure that, when the convention businesses come to Chicago, the tourists come to Chicago that give us the resources, these are the people that make sure that Chicago wins,” Emanuel said.
The mayor noted that he took office at a time when McCormick Place had “slipped to fifth place” among the nation’s convention centers.
“Orlando and Vegas were kicking our butts. We fixed it working together, business and labor. About 10,000 jobs in the hospitality industry have come to Chicago. We’re now No. 1. Orlando and Vegas are behind us. They’re chasing us. . . . The question is, do we have the leadership to keep investing in that or do we let . . . the future go to Orlando and Vegas,” Emanuel said.
“I’m proud to have Unite Here’s support. . . . Their support is an indication, as the ambassadors for the city, that we have a lot more jobs to bring to Chicago.”
By law, political action committees are not supposed to coordinate with campaigns. Monday’s commercial unveiling with Emanuel would appear to violate that edict.
“It sounds fishy. To anyone with any common sense, it would sound like coordination,” said David Melton, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
But Melton said the apparent violation, if there is one, is moot, because caps on campaign contributions have already been lifted for the mayoral campaign.
Still, Melton said the Unite Here campaign is “reflective of a fundamental problem” in the way political campaigns are financed.
“The richest and most powerful members of our society have an undue influence on our politicians,” Melton said.
“We need to adopt a small donor matching system to try and get politicians to focus more on the concerns of average voters by making them dependent on small voters to raise campaign funds.”
During Monday’s dog-and-pony show, Emanuel told reporters that he texted copies of the “Rahm Love” commercials to his three teenaged children.
“They wanted to know why they don’t get any `Rahm love’ at home,” the mayor joked.