Announcements played overhead at Chicago Metra stations urged customers to participate in the transit company's drive to collect school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, folders, rulers, glue, crayons, markers, erasers and more. According to a press release dated the 5th of August, Metra is working in cooperation with the Chicago Public Schools.
Meanwhile, at a nearby hotel conference room where the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) had gathered for their Region IV conference, local media started assembled in preparation for Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn's remarks.
The governor spoke briefly, praising the UWUA for their Utility Workers Military Assistance Program, and their success in training more than two hundred Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, remarking that these jobs were important not only to the veterans who filled them and their co-workers in the union, but to the entire community because, "these jobs are important jobs that protect public safety."
Gov. Quinn also spent a few minutes stressing the value of utility jobs as occupations that could not be outsourced, "These are American jobs. This is what America is all about." Gov. Quinn wasn't just preaching to the choir by reminding the assembled workers that theirs were jobs that had to be done in the United States. He was also making a public statement to the press that, in this critical election year, his opponent couldn't take credit for putting Illinois workers back to work. The jab at opponent, Bruce Rauner, might have hit home, if the press had cared to pay attention.
Bruce Rauner's campaign website biography indirectly mentions Chicago based union jobs but only to state that his company invested their retirement funds. Rauner's investment company that was originally called Golder, Thoma, Cressey (now GTCR) - according to the site - "has been trusted for decades to oversee the retirement investments of first responders, teachers and other Illinois workers and has created tremendous returns for them..." and - one could argue - for Rauner.
Critics might find it ironic and even hypocritical that Rauner is campaigning for the pensions of state workers to be decimated now that he's made his money on them. His website again offers only this comment on Rauner's financial successes over the years - with or without the help of government employee pensions - "Bruce makes no apologies for his success."
When Gov. Quinn stood at the podium he praised the middle class workers assembled before him and noted that, "This country is built on the middle class. The heart and soul of America is a good middle class job." The governor noted that middle class thrives in a country where everyone pays their "fair share."
Gov. Quinn then accused his opponent of not only skipping out on paying his fair share, but also of running a business that helps other companies shirk their responsibilities as well. Gov. Quinn reproached Rauner of offshoring jobs as well as the companies who used to provide those jobs.
The governor closed with a reminder to those assembled that he faced a critical election and had only 75 days left to campaign, "150 if you don't sleep and I'm not sleeping." After shaking nearly every hand in the room the governor walked into the hallway where a dozen or so reporters and photographers were waiting for him.
Not one single reporter asked about the veterans to work programs. Not one single reporter asked about jobs. Not one single reporter asked him to comment on employment figures and the programs instituted by the governor as they related to middle class wages, utility workers, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans employment rates, or the governor's own controversial government employee pension compromise.
What was on the mind of the media after this event which brought utility workers from across the Midwest together in one room was - wait for it - term limits.
One lone reporter mentioned that Rauner remarked earlier this month that he shouldn't have to show anymore of his income tax returns to the people of Illinois. A savvy observer could glean from that comment a veiled reference to the Governor's claim that Rauner offshored businesses for a living.
The governor responded, "His (Rauner's) right to hide what's on his tax returns is not more important than the people of Illinois right to know what's on those returns."
When the press ignores the discussion at hand: issues as vital to the health and security of the working class as middle class wages, the utility workers, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans employment rates, and government employee pensions, one shouldn't be surprised that the public transit system is begging for school supplies.