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Unions at War with City Hall and Each Other — A Scenario for Strikes

For the last two years, all we’ve seen and heard from our City Council is tears and pleas to save the jobs of city workers or at the least to shelter them from losses caused by a government that costs too much and delivers too little.

There’s no mystery as to why this is.
The Council, like nearly all our elected officials for the last few decades, owe their elections to the unions, developers, contractors, consultants and the army of political operatives who feed off of the public treasury and the politics and policies of City Hall.
What’s happened in the last two years is a travesty: Massive deficits papered over with heavy borrowing, deferral of costs, manipulation of accounts, sale of assets and revenue streams, increased rates, fees and taxes.
The mayor and Council cut one deal after another with the unions that weren’t worth the paper they were printed on: A sweetened early retirement package that fell apart within weeks, a second that handsomely paid off 2,400 senior staff without protecting areas of need, labor contracts that promised no furloughs or layoffs in exchange for delaying raises, a police union contract the deferred overtime payments and took hundreds of officers off the streets.

All through this period, they undermined the Engineers and Architects to aid the SEIU in its raid on the white-collar professional union, actions taken in gratitude for the blue-collar unions generous campaign contributions.

Now, with the mayor sounding like a corporate executive demanding city unions make concessions, the EAA is now back in the good graces of the City Hall power structure.

The 4,800-member EAA has agreed to pay a greater share of soaring health care costs in exchange for reducing furlough days from 26 to 10 this year — an action denounced by the SEIU as a sell-out of union interests and urges EAA members to reject the deal.

How much money this actually saves is far from clear. It’s certainly a lot less than what city officials are seeking from the unions: 10 percent contribution to health care costs, 10 percent reduction in payroll costs and an increase to 9 percent toward pensions.

All this is coming very late in the day with billions of dollars in budget deficits looming in the next few years and so much time spent cooking the books instead of sitting down and facing the harsh financial realities.

The result of the mayor and Council’s bungling of the budget mess is that they have cut worthless deals and now don’t the credibility to negotiate honest ones.

After so many phony deals, most union leaders can’t go back to their members now and tell them the truth that the only way out of this mess to protect their jobs and public services is to make significant concessions.

So the union leaders bluster and foment anger and resentment, inching toward the moment of truth when they call for a strike vote.

What choice do they have? After years of getting their own way, city workers think their high pay and lucrative benefits are an entitlement. They see the mayor and Council as betraying the deals they have cut. Many have lost confidence in their own union leadership.

City officials could impose various costs on their own by declaring an impasse in negotiation which would leave the unions to act.

“The only recourse will be to STRIKE: to disrupt the City’s work so much that the mayor and Council surrender,” the EAA said on its website.

For their part, the mayor and Council have lost all credibility with the unions and the public by their failure to deal with the city’s financial problems.

Unions at war with each other, workers discontented with their leaders, elected officials without credibility or backbone and most unions refusing to budget — all those factors come together to create a scenario for months of conflict and the risks of strikes or other job actions.

This is no way to run a city, the fruit of years of poor leadership and sweetheart contracts. The public already is paying the bill with libraries and parks closing and many basic services being slashed.

It will only get worse unless dramatic changes are made.

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20 Responses to Unions at War with City Hall and Each Other — A Scenario for Strikes

  1. Anonymous says:

    Politics makes strange bedfellows. The Mayor screwed the EAA early in his administration. Now, true to character, he is using EAA to screw SEIU, his previous friends. What a farce.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 the LOST Angeles City Council is Awaiting A Quorum Again which is customary here in Los Angeles. Council members Richard Alarcon, Bill Rosendahl, and Ed Reyes were late today. As a constituent said during public comment, the habitual late council members would be out of a job if they were working in the private sector.
    Tuesday, July 27, 2010 Council members Paul Krekorian and Bill Rosendahl were also late. Additionally, Council member Jose Huizar was unable to lead the U.S. Pledge of Alligiance on Tuesday before council meeting but appeared to be a proud American Wednesday due to the blocks of part of SB 1070 by the Federal Judge.
    The Pledge of Allegiance
    “I pledge allegiance”
    (I promise to be true)
    “to the flag”
    (to the symbol of our country)
    “of the United States of America”
    (each state that has joined to make our country)
    “and to the Republic”
    (a republic is a country where the people choose others to make laws for them — the government is for the people)
    “for which it stands,”
    (the flag means the country)
    “one Nation”
    (a single country)
    “under God,”
    (the people believe in a supreme being)
    (the country cannot be split into parts)
    “with liberty and justice”
    (with freedom and fairness)
    “for all.”
    (for each person in the country)

  3. Just Strike Then says:

    Unions getting their backs up to the wall and if asked to give up too much all hell breaks out. I love it.

  4. Lafayette says:

    Sounds like Unions will vote YES to increase payments to health care and retirment as there is no other choice. And you can bet your bottom dollar, the City will be back, time and time againg. The only way to fight back is to Strike; now or later either way.

  5. Jim O'Sullivan says:

    Unions should tread softly here. So far the public is mostly unaware of what is going on in LA. A strike or strikes will only anger the majority of stakeholders. Many don’t have pensions and/or heath care and have no idea that they are on the hook for the Unions rising pension and health care costs. If the Unions strike, the public will ask why and their won’t be a whole lot of sympathy from people who can only dream of making the kind of money city employee’s make.

  6. Anonymous says:

    While this farce has been going on for over three years, employees have reacted by doing the basic minimum work. To please the unions, these political idiots have destroyed the work ethic.

  7. Anonymous says:

    You nail the issue — what happens in a vacuum of leadership. Chaos and disorder. The exact antithesis of government’s purpose.
    The issue isn’t employees or the unions that represent them. The issue is the lack of leadership among elected officials to run the government in a harmoneous way.
    Instead, the politicians have taken to the only survival mechanism they understand, pit one side against another to their immediate interests or reward.
    Consequently, the example they set for their employees is what their employees and their unions adopt as strategy for survival.
    EAA actually helped Antonio get elected. But when Antonio went Reagan on them in a contract negotiation, EAA went on strike and Antonio had to cross a picket line. Antonio listened to the wrong people when they said EAA would not strike in 2006. Ever since then Antonio allowed, if not encouraged and colluded with SEIU to attack EAA.
    It will be interesting to see if Antonio is playing EAA for SEIU’s benefit.

  8. Sandy Sand says:

    With past court actions, how far do union leaders think they can take strikes? Any striking employees that are vital to the health and safety of the public will be ordered back to work by the court. As for the others, maybe we’ll find that we just don’t need them and like many other ‘real’ people, they’ll find themselves permanently out of jobs.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I wish the unions would understand that most of their employees perform jobs that can be done for a fraction when outsourced. The fools keep pushing the issues where their workers will end up losing the jobs. The unions are banking on that if they lose, so do the current crop of cityhall politicians. The public is paying the price for this BS.

  10. Anonymous says:

    EAA already went on strike and only a portion were subjected to court order against striking. Crime scene technicians EAA represents were not among those prohibited from striking.
    Ironically, last year the City of Los Angeles furloughed the same employees it went to court to say were so vital that they could not strike.
    Strike bad but furlough okay?
    One more twisted piece of whatever excuse is convenient to get ahead on the backs of other people whether they be voters or workers.

  11. PensionGate says:

    YOU!! People working for the City, union or otherwise, when you retire get a monthly income that is fantastic. Most people get SS and thats it.
    Put up or shut up Union Employees. Either pay more to get that great pension or Strike. Either way, The City will not be able to function unless you come up with more $$ for your Pension.
    Keep in mind the City of LA has a lawsuit against BoA and others to try to recoup the billion City lost through investing pension funds.

  12. Walter Moore says:

    Rather than attacking each other, the unions should go after:
    a) the hundreds of millions of dollars doled out as corporate welfare through the CRA;
    b) the $18.5 million squandered on the Mayor’s so-called “anti-gang” program;
    c) money paid to “consultants” to do work we already have people on the payroll to do;
    d) one-dollar-per-year leases;
    e) below-market-price sales of property; and
    f) assorted ridiculous boondoggle hand-outs to politically connected cronies and non-profits (e.g., free $10,000 European vacations for “artists”).

  13. Anonymous says:

    As far as I am concerned, it’s time to air the dirty laundry. Something needs to wake-up the public, and a strike could be the means.
    Think about how once those high salaries and pensions became known to the city of Bell residents, they voiced their outrage. And talk about media coverage nationwide!
    We need a furious public to start demanding change downtown.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Frank Schofield (Senator Lane): There’s a saying, Fletcher: To the victor belongs the spoils.
    John Vernon (Fletcher): There’s another saying, Senator: Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.

  15. Anonymous says:

    SEIU is a joke. They have been played repeatedly and the only guarantee they have delivered to it’s membership is the 6% dues they collect. Their membership has experienced layoffs and now have 26 days of furlough.
    EAA on the other hand has stood up to the City when it violated its contract by imposing furloughs and have negotiated when in the best interest of its membership.
    Question is, why is SEIU attempting to influence the EAA membership vote? It’s not their contract and it’s the EAA mou’s that did not vote to join representation. Or maybe they aren’t quite yet ready to give up on raiding EAA for the membership dues they would gain.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps SEIU wants the cost of health care to rise so one of its main sectors of employees, health care, continue to benefit from top shelf public employee benefits paid for by tax payers?
    Theoretically, if public employees start to accept a partial cost of their health care, they will act healthier and be more affordable to insure…and when America starts needing less health care, SEIU starts to lose membership and influence.

  17. Mariscal says:

    As a City worker, perspective should apply here. I’ve worked for the City long enough to remember when my job was considered menial, dead-end and a “last chance” for average wages. That’s OK. I was proud to serve LA then and I’m still proud to serve LA now. I can understand that when jobs are scarce, supply and demand makes them even more valuable.
    Although, I do agree that our union leadership has been wanting….maybe even directionally challenged. But, that is partly the members fault and the price paid for not looking over their shoulders often enough or closely enough, as the residents of the City of Bell can attest to. We will address that internally, very soon.
    In as far a job action is concerned, I can only say that the public should ask why and how it got to that point. But, before you can fix a problem, I agree, that you must first understand it. That means not just noticing a “wet floor”, but looking up to find the “leak” and the “source” of the leak.
    The City workers do not, and did not, have their hands on the fiscal steering wheel. The people of the City of Los Angeles had a fair election and voted these people into office, right? Or maybe the voters are partly to blame, also?
    Is it just a coincidence that the Parking Contractors were allowed to amass over $440M in noncollectable tax debt? Just a coincidence that AEG received a $246M tax break? Just a coincidence that the City Controller finds a $260M annual loss in uncollected parking fines? And the City paid about $500,000 to a gang program that we can’t evaluate? Add it all up and connect the dots.
    We now have, proportionately, one of the smallest workforces we’ve had in a long time. Which means that services are going down or are not being done at all. More dots to connect.
    The City has had so much trouble collecting from contractors, and it thinks the solution is to hire more contractors? Even more dots to connect.
    The City is using us as a distraction away from the real problem.
    And by the way, I’m not from DWP, not a supervisor driving around and not a smoker from the Harbor, and make less than $60,000 a year. And, yes, very thankful to have a job… far.

  18. Anonymous says:

    City job menial! What do you do; clean toilets. I entered city service as a noble profession of doing good for society rather than making mega bucks outside. However, menial was never in the equation.

  19. Mariscal says:

    I didn’t say that I considered them menial. Others who considered themselves above a City job, considered them menial. I’ve always been proud to serve LA.

  20. Anonymous says:

    It seems lost on many people that those of us working for the city have been working for many years now without promotional possibility, many doing the job of two or three people, without the support above or below that we should have in place. It’s not as easy in most areas as it is made to sound. I work hard. Very hard. For a paycheck that, despite what you think, doesn’t really reflect my education and skills. There will be no promotions in the near future if I even get to keep my job. Morale is low, and though we get paid for 40 hours a week when we’re lucky…we often work many more off the clock to get our jobs done. Everyone keeps saying my job is so much sweeter than the private sector? Glass houses, folks. Most of the private sector folks I know in my line of work have stock options and retirement packages that rival what the city will give me. Don’t tell me to take my salary (one of the smallest in civil service), and cut it by 10%, then take out more for health care, more for pensions…and maybe lose a day or two of work here and there to furloughs. I barely make my bills now, and I don’t have many. I do the job I do because I believe in my work and I care about people. Don’t for a minute think we’re all greedy or stupid based on the actions of a few. And think twice about who you vote for…remember the inactions of those in power now and what they caused.

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