So much for all that talk about the City Hall family.
Like tyrannical bosses the world over, the mayor and City Council reacted to the vote of “no confidence” by 43 percent of the civilian workers by taking immediate steps to crush the recalcitrant peasants with the full force of their authority.
How dare these little people, these second-rate lawyers, these clerks, park rangers, animal control officers, 911 operators, wastewater plant workers, lifeguards, these nobodies reject giving up 4 percent of their pay for health care and taking a 1.5 percent pay cut next year instead of getting a 5 percent raise.
Didn’t they understand it was an offer they couldn’t refuse?
Taking a page out of the Handbook for Bad Labor Relations, the city’s leaders acted swiftly to rejection of the deal by 6,300 workers — 43 percent of those covered by the contract — by ordering them to take 42 unpaid furlough days starting immediately unless they change their minds within a week.
Listening to City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and Council members during the first day of hearings Wednesday on the $457 million deficit budget for next year you would have thought the city’s financial troubles were the fault of the workers — not the mayor and the city’s leaders.
That 80 percent of the City Attorney’s already decimated staff will be put on furloughs is Carmen Trutanich’s problem. No mercy. Criminals going free, civil cases lost because there’s no one to do the job? Not the mayor or Council’s problem.
The real victims, of course, are the taxpayers who pay the bills and have stood by powerless as union bosses and city officials cut deals for extravagant salaries and benefits for years. Now, they won’t even get the services they paid for.
This unprecedented rebellion against the unions’ and city’s leaders by workers doesn’t just happen.
For each of the past three years, the unions’ and city leaders have renegotiated contract after contract knowing full well the deals were phony, nothing but tricks to get through another 12 months before more cuts were needed.
This time 43 percent of the workers called them on it. Their trust was betrayed and they knew full well the budget problems only get worse and this deal would only last until the next round of budget finagling.
The workers didn’t bankrupt the city. The mayor and Council did. They have used every trick from early retirements, transfers and furloughs to get through each year without being honest about the problems and offering real solutions.
They treated different classes of workers differently.
It’s one thing for cops to lose a lot of their cash payments for overtime. It’s another to lose 10 to 15 percent of pay through furloughs and watch DWP workers keep on getting pay raises every year.
The cold indifference of city leaders to the impact of rejection of this latest deal on workers and public services is symptomatic of all that’s wrong at City Hall.
They failed the public. They failed the workers. They take no responsibility for their failure, deflecting blame to the people they have betrayed.
Last month, roughly 43 percent of voters rejected the incumbent Council members. Now, it’s 43 percent of the workers.
It’s not enough to bring down this failed government, not enough to bring the city’s leaders to their senses.
But the trend is clear enough.
City Hall is losing the confidence of the people and its work force.
Nothing good will come from any of this until there is an honest and open public conversation about the state of the city, about what the diverse communities of the city want and need, about what the city can afford to provide.
They may be able to bully and beat these 6,300 rebellious workers into submission but the myth of the City Hall family has been destroyed. It will not be easy to restore credibility to a city leadership that behaves like tyrannical bosses the world over.