In the world of organized labor, we often hear terms like “Solidarity” and “We are stronger together.” When it comes to contract negotiations there’s good reason. By acting in unity, we can accomplish much more than by acting alone. Now that contract negotiations with the City of Los Angeles have begun, it’s time to not only remember those words, but to put action behind them. Over the last 26 years, I’ve served in some capacity on the bargaining teams for this local and without a doubt, these are the toughest negotiations I have encountered.
To date, we’ve met four times with the city and walked out of the first meeting in protest of the combative nature of the discussions. When the principals of the Coalition of L.A. City Unions met with the Assistant City Administrative Officer, he made their intentions clear – they want nothing short of breaking apart our Coalition. They insisted that city proposals would only be presented at the individual bargaining tables. The old divide-and-conquer tactic was being used. Because of the position they took, we responded by saying then the City had not submitted timely proposals in accordance with contract language. Proposals from either side were due on April 30, which we submitted timely. Our attorney memorialized our position in a letter to the CAO to which they responded, of course with a position to the contrary. And so like other major actions taken by the City lately, we will be locked in litigation.
We know the concessions the City is seeking based on agreements recently signed by two other non-sworn units. Where we differ is our units worked with the City during the economic crisis saving millions of dollars. Speaking to the Coalition bargaining teams (over a hundred City employees-union members) seeking support for the last contract amendment, CAO Santana said, “If I have to come back again then I haven’t done my job.” He also stated, “We have done pension reform.” So what does it mean then to seek concessions of: 10 percent of the cost of medical premium, changing the value of salary step from 5.5 percent to 2.75 percent, cut promotional step placement from 5.5 percent to 2.75 percent, cut supervisor differential from 5.5 percent to 2.75 percent, an imposed two-tier pension system, or an imposed decrease in retirement reciprocity with DWP? It means the CAO has not done his job. These are diabolical changes and even worse – they are not necessary.
The only way to stem this tide is to indeed put action to the meaning of solidarity. We have to stand together and make our voices heard that these proposals are not acceptable! We have to be angry enough to say loudly that we sacrificed in the tough times. It is now time to look to other sources of revenue, of which there are several, to restore services and maintain an adequate level of well-trained staff to provide those services. And that means coming together as one, standing up for each other as well as ourselves, for past, present and future Los Angeles City employees.
Our first action will be a rally and press conference on July 1st on the Main Street side of City Hall followed by testimony at the council meeting. Take your lunch and an hour’s vacation time. If you work an off watch, come in early or stay late. Download the flyer here for more info. Your presence will send a message to the City Council. The question is what will the message be?