Robert Novak

I asked the mayor whether he had sat down to discuss these realities with Sweeney. He didn't answer, but I later learned that Daley indeed delivered a blunt lecture to the AFL-CIO president. He informed Sweeney that in building the new Chicago, he had produced high-paid union jobs and warned that the anti-Wal-Mart crusade threatened to bring it all down.

Daley cannot control the aldermen because he no longer possesses the absolute power of his father. The council members fear not Daley but the unions, who are capable of denying them re-election in labor's promised renewed battle against Wal-Mart.

Such is the case of Ed Burke, an alderman since 1969 who led the council's white majority against black Mayor Harold Washington in the "Council Wars" of the early 1980s. I asked him why he opposed Daley Wednesday. He replied in blunt Chicago style: "What is the gain for me to go against labor?" He added that his wife, Anne, was now an Illinois Supreme Court justice, "and there is no reason why she should have to run [for election] against labor."

Daley looks impervious to labor revenge. The mayor, now elected on a non-partisan basis, will receive massive Republican support next February against a possible challenge by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Daley's closest political associates believe his confrontation with labor makes him more likely to win over 50 percent of the vote without a runoff. Labor, strong enough to frighten aldermen, looks impotent in the broader political arena.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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