Speaking at the CGI jobs summit on Wednesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered an optimistic portrait of his new administration’s efforts to bring jobs to Chicago, a city where the unemployment rate—like that of the rest of the country—remains high.
Speaking with a slight twang, the former White House senior staffer announced that companies including General Electric, United Airlines and Walgreens, among others, had said they would hire more than 3,000 people since he took office.
Yet he cautioned that the city needed to figure out how to fill existing positions to make a dent in the unemployment rate.
“There are 120,000 job openings in Chicago,” the mayor said. “Yet we have 9 percent unemployment. Those two facts should not go together.”
Emanuel, who donned a navy blue pin-striped suit, said his administration was analyzing the city’s community college and job training programs to ensure that they properly train workers for the jobs of today as well as those of tomorrow.
The mayor, who is known for his aggressive brand of politics, promised that he would create the conditions needed for investment, but implied that corporations have to do their part and actually create jobs.
“I will make the tough decisions that are necessary,” he said. “I will straighten out our schools. I will bring our fiscal house in order… and bring quality of life to our streets. We’re making those tough decisions so you have the confidence to invest in our city.”
But Rahm is talking tough to the unions, too. As the Chicago Sun Times reports, Emanuel recently gave organized labor an ultimatum: Sign off on $20 million worth of work-rule changes by Thursday at midnight or face 625 job cuts.
“It is not necessary to do the layoffs if you agree to these reforms,” Emanuel said, according to the Sun Times. “If you don’t, that will be the choice left to me on behalf of the taxpayers."
The irony was apparently not lost on at least some members of the local media here in Chicago.