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Unions Saved the City

LA LABOR - "Unions Saved the City" according to two top Deputies in the Mayor’s office. Larry Frank and Matt Szabo were amongst the nearly 100 attendees of a Saturday morning meeting briefing on the Mayors proposed 2011-2012 budget, presented for neighborhood council leaders and activists. Under the provisions of the tentative contract that the City Council and Union members must ratify there will be:

  • Immediate elimination of furlough days through June 2014
  • A shut down the city between Christmas and New years
  • A small increase in employee contribution to health care
  • An increase in the employee contribution to their retirement pensions

Deputy Mayor Frank, who works on community relations including DONE and Neighborhood Councils, congratulated the City unions for their creativity and commitment to the city.

The City Revenue shortage, caused by the lumbering recession, strained the relationships between city employee unions and the City’s elected leadership.

In The past three years City unions were threatened with mass layoffs, furloughs and a cleaver  to employee benefits by CAO Miguel Santana  and a City Council that seemed reluctant to look for or adopt measures to increase efficiencies in the Cities processes or go after potential revenue sources like uncollected parking taxes from privately owned parking lots. This could be millions of dollars if all delinquents paid up.

The low point in the City’s labor relations occurred last year when the Mayor and Council imposed furloughs and layoffs for general fund supported employees.

The five unions that comprise the City Coalition of Unions complained that while the Mayor spoke of shared sacrifice in dealing with the budget, the burden of balancing it fell disproportionally on the City’s civilian employees.

The most recent round of negotiations to solve the $463 million deficit in the 2011-20012 City budget was negotiated by Matt Szabo from the Mayor’s office and the Coalition negotiators.

The union ratification vote is expected to be close because some feel that city employees have conceded too much already.

The big stick is if the  contract fails to be ratified City employees would face 36 furlough days in the next 12 months, the equivalent of a 15% pay cut. Ouch!!

(Mark Siegel founded CityWatch and is a long-time labor activist.) –cw

Vol 9 Issue 32
Pub: Apr 22, 2011