Public-Sector Unions In Charge

Chicago’s Mayor Daley (1955-1976) was the most powerful American mayor of the 20th century.  He accumulated power by expanding Chicago’s city and county payrolls with “patronage workers.”  Those workers, along with their families and relatives, would work for his campaigns and vote for him.  This dependence on public-sector union workers established a permanent symbiotic relationship between elected officials and government hiring1.
Now the public-sector unions are much larger and more influential: since 1989, of the ten largest national campaign contributors, four are public-sector unions.  The AFT (American Federation of Teachers) now has 1.5 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide.
As a result, the power dynamics have changed; while Daley put people under obligation2 to him for their jobs, unions have recently made the Democratic Party beholden to them for campaign money and votes.
What do public-sector union members receive in return for supporting Democrats?  The answer is best found in Illinois, since it has the most governmental units of any state at 6,0393.  Because President Obama learned politics there, his national actions are best understood in the Illinois context. 

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