By Ken Feltman
Years ago, as the story was told to me, Chicago’s first Mayor Daley invited representatives of the Teamsters Union and several milk companies to meet with him in a hotel suite. The Teamsters had gone on strike against the milk companies and panicked buying soon emptied the grocery shelves of milk.
The union and management officials arrived. Daley stood up and went to the door. As he left with his armed body guards, Daley told the union and corporate officials that when they reached an agreement, they should slip it under the door. Daley said he would release the new contract to the media and unlock the door. Then he mentioned that the suite had no bathroom. The strike was settled quickly. Daley went before television cameras to announce the good news. Then he unlocked the door.
Later, Daley remarked that there are two things that few elected officials can do anything about but that will haunt them at the polls: The price of gas at the pump and milk on the grocery store shelf. Supposedly, Daley told a political writer for a Chicago newspaper that he knew the strike could hurt him in the next election more than any other issue. So he got creative. He suggested that he might use that hotel room again.
Whether true or not, the story sums up the political power of everyday things that every family depends on. As gasoline prices go higher and higher and food prices keep going up, all the macroeconomic theories in the universe are no match for commuting drivers and worried mothers. Elected officials need to respond or face the consequences, which may be as uncomfortable as the lack of a bathroom.