The Crusader Newspaper Group

Black pols rip House Speaker Welch for targeting Rep. Flowers

PICTURED L-R: Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Illinois Representative Mary Flowers (D-31st)

Moore on targeting Flowers for defeat says “they will have to come through me, first”

Illinois Representative Mary Flowers (D-31st) thought she was giving respect to, and protecting Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch when she prevented younger staff from staging a walkout because of alleged unfair labor practices. Flowers is shocked that Welch has targeted her for political defeat in Women’s History Month.

To add insult to injury, Speaker Welch stripped Flowers, who has been in office for nearly 40 years, of her deputy majority leadership role that cost her $8,000 in lost pay. “I am the longest serving Black House of Representatives member who now is the lowest paid,” she told the Chicago Crusader.

Flowers is still baffled over Welch’s actions since in 2021 he praised her work and her tenure. At that time, he said, “I am proud to call Leader Flowers a diligent advocate, a serious leader, a fine Representative, and my friend.”

Alderman David Moore

Welch’s targeting Flowers for political defeat is shocking to Black leaders like Alderman David Moore (17th) who told the Chicago Crusader, “It’s not what they are doing to Mary Flowers. It’s what they are doing to Black women. So, when you start attacking Black women especially, and they use Black men, it’s a problem.

“They cannot find anything wrong with her record and the work that she has done,” Moore said. “So, they tell lies, and you try to put a bad light on a Black woman. I’m standing up as a Black man not only in protecting her, but letting other people know when you come after a Black woman, you got to come through David Moore.”

Asked how he felt about Welch putting up more than $500,000 to support an unknown candidate to defeat Flowers, Moore said, “It’s a waste of money.”

Senator Mattie Hunter

Senator Mattie Hunter (D-3rd) said she too is “shocked and appalled at what’s going on with our senior leader. She’s committed herself to her district over 40 years. It seems seniority doesn’t matter anymore. So many younger folks are willing to just disregard that and disrespect our leadership and take them out. It’s totally unfair, and I don’t like it at all.”

Saying she was just trying to respect and protect him, Flowers also told Welch privately about one staffer who Flowers said had begun to look like Adolf Hitler. When Flowers talked to the staffer, whom she had known more than 20 years, and asked about his appearance, Flowers said he just laughed so she forgot about it.

Speaker Welch didn’t forget about her remarks saying, “This is not the first time you made derogatory comments toward colleagues and staff,” he wrote in a letter to Flowers.

Welch has secured more than $560,500 including $68,500 from his own campaign, to support an unknown male educator to defeat Flowers.

According to Flowers, “the unions and everybody have joined in his goal to defeat me.” Flowers said she met her now opponent once and he allegedly told her, “You’ve been in office too long.”

The nightmare for Flowers began in late April of 2023. “He gave him an ultimatum that if I would not come to his office by May 31, he would strip me of my leadership and my pay.”

When asked what prompted Welch to give her this ultimatum, Flowers said, “When he called me and said he wanted to meet with me, I said I have a busy schedule and asked him what the subject was.” She wanted to know the topic so she could be prepared including if she needed a lawyer to accompany her.

“He said, ‘You disrespected one of my employees,’ prompting Flowers to say, ‘What did you say’?” When she asked how, Welch said because she mentioned he looked like Hitler. “This is a free country. I told you so you could address the issue,” she told the Speaker in a private meeting last April.

That was when Flowers told him not only about his staffer’s appearance but also how she prevented a diverse group of his younger staff from staging a protest walk-out because of “unfair labor practices. They were upset that some employees could work at home and others were getting higher pay. They felt they were overworked and under paid.

“I thought I was giving the Speaker respect and protecting him from this protest because he was the first Black Speaker of the House,” she told the Chicago Crusader.

Flowers said she was shocked when the Speaker allegedly told caucus members he had just learned that some of his staff was going to stage a walkout. When Flowers reminded him that she had told him about their planned protest, and about the questionable appearance of one of his employees, who is no longer on staff, he said, “No you didn’t.”

She refused to go to Welch’s office as he demanded.

“I am 72 years old,” said Flowers. “I was 71 at the time. I was not going to let that man talk to me any kind of a way. I’m older than his mother.”

“He sent a hand-delivered letter to my office. I told my staffer not to open the letter,” said Flowers. “Two-days later it was in Capitol Fax (on May 9, 2023).

“The women (staffers) came to my office asking why I gave the Speaker to Rich Miller (who heads Capitol Fax). I told them I had not done that and showed them the unopened letter from the Speaker. “I don’t know what the Speaker’s talking about. That’s just another lie,” she told them.

“I told the Speaker you do what you have to do because I am not meeting with you because I know how you like to talk to people,” Flowers said, accusing him of allegedly cursing people out.

“You are not going to talk to me that way,” said Flowers.

“From that day on, that is when he started going after me.” Flowers said she was shocked at the appearance of the Speaker’s staff member because she grew up around 71st and Western where the Nazis had an office with a picture of Hitler in the window.

It also reminded her of the time when Hitler came to the U.S. and asked how you keep Blacks under control. “That is when he went back to Europe and started exterminating the Jews. I didn’t think (his staff’s appearance) was something to just dismiss.”

Flowers said she is still shocked at the Speaker’s actions since just a year ago, he gave glowing, supportive remarks about her tenure and work.

Here is a transcript of his remarks:

“As Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, I am honored to congratulate our deputy majority leader, Representative Mary Flowers, for the National Distinguished Advocacy Award from the American Cancer Society Action Network.

“Leader Flowers is the quintessential elected representative. She is well convicted in her values. She practices determination and she has a kind heart. Most importantly, she knows how marginalized communities can be better served by government. Those are the qualities Leader Flowers brings with her into every issue and every debate. This is particularly the case when it comes to access to health care.

“During her more than 30 years in the General Assembly, Leader Flowers has advanced efforts to improve disadvantaged communities’ access to health care. Because of her help, Illinois became the first state to pass comprehensive biomarker testing which will help residents receive access to the proper cancer treatment at the right time.

“Marginalized communities, including communities of color and people of less privileged socioeconomics are less likely to receive biomarker testing. People in rural communities and those receiving care in non-academic medical centers are less likely to benefit from biomarker testing. But because of Leader Flowers, these communities will have greater access. This is in addition to other initiatives, including empowering patients to predict better and plan their health needs.

“Those diagnosed with cancer need every inch of help we can give, and we owe it to ourselves as a society to beat the disease. Everyone has a role to play and that’s what Leader Flowers is fighting for.

“I am proud to call Leader Flowers a diligent advocate, a serious leader, a fine representative, and my friend.

“Congratulations, Mary. And may God bless the American Cancer Society and all of our cancer patients who can have a little more hope as science and public health continue to advance,” said Welch.

In 2013, Welch was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives after losing several races, but he made history on January 13, 2021, when he was elected the first Black Illinois Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Welch, 53, succeeded scandal-riddled House Speaker Mike Madigan, in that position since 1983, who has been charged with racketeering conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud and attempted extortion involving the ComEd investigation.

Flowers was asked by Mayor Harold Washington to run for the State Representative seat and told her to win which she did. Flowers was sworn into office on January 9, 1985. She is the longest serving African American House of Representatives member in the state of Illinois.

When asked her feelings about being targeted for political defeat, Flowers said, “I am appalled and insulted by it, and I don’t appreciate it and for him to do this to me and other Black women who stood with him, I found it disgraceful.

“I worked too hard for them to get where they are,” she said. “For him to disrespect me, it is unacceptable and I’m not going to accept it,” said Flowers.

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