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Would you take a pay cut to save your co-workers' jobs?



If you had the option, would you give up 10% of your salary in return for saving the jobs of your co-workers? Or would you rather take a couple of unpaid furlough days a month? Or would it be better just to lay off 10% of the workforce?

In trying to close a budget gap, Los Angeles city officials are saying the proposed 4,000 layoffs could be avoided if all city employees took that cut, in which someone making $50,000 would see a drop to $45,000 -- no insignificant amount. Some people have also advocated furloughs as a way of avoiding either option, although the City Council worries about potential legal issues with that route.

Union officials are naturally suspicious, and unconvinced that any of this is necessary. But they're living in a dream world, if my conversation with Recreation and Parks director Jon Mukri is any indication.

Mukri told me that he has 1,700 full-time employees, down from the 2,100 the department had in 2004, with about 300 more job losses in the works. Part-time positions have been cut in half over that six-year stretch, Mukri said. Service cuts, he added, have only just begun.

"We probably will see fewer pools open" this summer, he said, and recreation centers now open seven days a week might be open only "five days a week or even four."

Mukri said he has few options, now that he's being required by the city to pay millions in utility costs and other indirect expenses out of his own budget.

Based on numbers he's seen, Mukri said, if every single city employee agreed to a 10% pay cut, the budget could be balanced without service or job cuts. It would be great PR for the unions too, Mukri suggested.

Let us know what you think about what’s the best option. In particular, we'd like to hear from union members.

-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Swimmers crowd the pool at Harvard Recreation Center in South L.A. in July. Such opportunities might be rarer this summer because of cuts in the city's parks and recreation department.

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Comments () | Archives (74)

there are times when you need to look after your family more than your co-workers. a huge paycut would mean homelessness for us. why does this have to be the only solution? why can't the council and mayor drop their salaries to $50000 to see how the other half barely scrape by? not to mention giving up the cars provided to them.. and why on earth do they not collect on millions between owed parking taxes and the whole michael jackson memorial fiasco? it boggles the mind....

Why is the city talking about furloughs and layoffs for employees? Didn't some city employees (Department of Water & Power) recently get a raise? If so, how can you justify that and at the same time expect others to take a pay cut or be laid off?

If DWP got a recent raise in the current situation, shouldn't they give up more?

Another idea would be a minimal user fee for current free services provided by government entities .

Although a set percentage in pay cuts may seem fair, the less you make, the harder hit you will be.

Absolutely. In fact, I already did.

No to 10%, maybe 5%. The key is co-workers, not all the workers in the city and not all the departments. There is excess and it needs to be addressed first. If they want paycuts they need to open the cities books and show where all the money is going to as a first step. I doubt they will open the books becuase it would expose where the money is going. Hiding projects, money that has been wasted and is getting wasted.

Not a hard decision. Furlough days, so you can do work on your days off. Lowered pay will never be an option. Higher pay is not an option made when the city or company is doing well, per se, only for annual raises and such. Furlough days allow people to keep their jobs, and use the extra time for other work, to supplement their pay check. Its common sense.

I would take the pay decrease or continue to furlough two days a month as I am now. The unions need to wake up and do what's best for everyone. Let the employees speak for themselves not through our no good unions. We need to save eachothers jobs!

Hell No! If the idiot administrators would figure out how to spend money properly, nobody would have to lose their job or take a cut. The way the spend money they don't have and spend the money they do have so very foolishly, is the real problem. Reign in the spending! I am in a useless union local 721 that I have to pay for whether I want to or not and I think they are worthless.

The Corrupt Political Machine and its Patron has the ear of all media outlets and is releasing inaccurate information. City employees are already taken pay cuts and are performing more tasks and job duties due to staffing shortages. This is contrary to what the Patron and City Council is saying publicly. This City Council and Mayor were at the wheel driving the City to this point and crashed this Bus. They should not decide to get off and tell Career employees you are the highest cost take a cut.
When these Highest Paid ELECTED Officials of the nation" will not give up" its slush funds and reduce their own personal salary, staffing Budget for the Mayors and Council staff. Where is their SHARED SACRIFICE?
They should take a 20% cut in pay and Staffing for a job poorly done. This 20% CUT for All Elected Officials 15 + 1 salaries and its Office Budgets will equal 10 million dollars. Leadership by example then these PART TIME Elected just passing thru officials can turn to the career employees that serve this city 30 years plus.

Sharing the pain seems meaningless if senior management isn't going to as well. I'd take a cut, if senior managers agreed to take higher cuts. Workers fight hard for minimal gains, but provide the substance that allows management to make its decisions. So any cuts should be made at top levels first; that often enhances efficiency anyway.


Thats a great idea if everyone does this even mayor Antonio, governor, police chief, and all the big guys at the top.

Does this include the proprietary departments as well? Why should they be exempt? Isn't this all about 'shared sacrifice?'

Too late. Now I have no co-workers.

I and five others were laid off in early 2009 from a privately owned, non-union firm in the convention industry. Those remaining had to do our jobs as well as theirs. That usually meant 'overtime' or to the salaried, 'comp' time which was never used. The extra work and stress led to the closing of the office. Some of the sales force were offered work if they could relocate to Arizona.

The firm employed union labor on its job sites. The union wouldn't budge on renegotiating its labor contract, which called for, among other items, yearly escalating pay raises. An escalating labor rate won't work in today's economy, particularly in a service industry.

Unions are part of a city and need to help businesses bring conventions to that city, otherwise those conventions won't be back. They will go to a state that is less restrictive about labor. Like... Arizona?

A 10% pay cut and a 2 furlough days per month. Save as many jobs as possible. A person who is able, but not working disserves the individual as well as society. If everyone makes a sacrifice to live on the skinny more able-bodied people will have the opportunity to work to make the life of everyone better. Greed and selfishness cannot be the way our society chooses to take us to the future--is it?

I think that the government should make more jobs instead of taking ten percent from peoples pay check because most people would never do give up ten percent and better yet. Everyone wants a raise too. Money is what makes this world go round and everybody wants the good life. Only a hand full of people will sign into this and most of them will be people that had a very good friend or family member that has been laid off.

I'll absolutely take a 10% pay cut to save my job and the jobs of my coworkers. Not only that, it saves our services. I work for the Public Library and I am seriously afraid to see what would actually happen to our patrons if we drastically cut our services and staff. A 10% paycut? Sign me up!

Layoffs are necessary, not paycuts. Paycuts only push the problem of having a workforce that is too big and expensive off for another day. Eventually when those pay guts go away or employees get cost of living increases or raises, you end up with the same problem you have now.

Reduce parasitic public employees by 50% now!

Why would I do that? That would suck. Hey, the government is loaded. It's their job to foot the bill. That is why there is something called unemployment. We live in the greatest country in the world. We have soldiers in 170 countries around the world. We dominate when it comes to world politics. We are the elite when it comes to money. We are not a third world country. The printing presses never stop. We are it!!! Period.

Salary cuts may help people in positions now. But when those people retire or get better job offers, the city is going to have a harder time replacing them because, generally speaking, skilled and talented job applicants want to be paid what they're worth-- not just 90 percent of it.

In a larger sense, Angelinos must decide the quality of city services they want and have the courage to pay for them. If you're not willing to pay the bill, don't complain about poor quality or service.

Non-DWP labor in Los Angeles has stepped up to the plate and made sacrifices every time this city has been in trouble over my 20 year career. Many times we have gone without raises and currently contribute much more to benefits than when I first started. These facts are never reported. In the current crisis, we tried in vain for two years to get the Mayor and Council to work with us to reduce the payroll in a humne way, through retirements. In June, we struck a deal, the Mayor promised us that he would deliver then immediately turned his back on us. We went to the table to hammer out another retirement deal that included raise deferrals, only to have the Council back out once we ratified an agreement. Our members were outraged, but we again went back to the table and hammered out a 5% furlough and other concessions that would have saved the City over $150 million had they acted immediately. Again, we stepped up and ratified with the additional sacrifices. It was not an easy sell, but in the end our members realized it would be better than driving the City to insolvency. On the day the Council approved this last deal, they slapped us in the face by approving a 16% pay increase for DWP workers. We can argue all day about it being a separate pot of money, but our members were stunned and incredulous. Since then, the City has not kept up it's end of the Coalition agreement. Now, the Mayor and Council are asking us to cut our pay after all these sacrifices, and by the way, the gun to our head is 4000 layoffs.

HELL HELL NO!...First, lay off all the lazy poor-performance employees, then the new ones. That's very easy to figure out and I'll even help out in the choosing. Then do the math. WOW! what a savings, then I might, just might start to think about it for a second or so.

We are the civilian workforce in the City that provides much of the infrastructure the citizens depend on every day. Yet we are the ones that get blamed for the crisis even though we represent less than 25% of the General Fund. Why is it that we have to continue to make sacrifices when the rest of the City force stays even or gets ahead? How is it fair to come back to us now and ask for another 10%? We were promised shared sacrifice, and then they spat on us. And now the spin is that we are being unreasonable. I'm sorry, Steve, but we have given plenty already. When the Council and Mayor cut every other salary in the City 10% first, INCLUDING their own, their staff's, Police, Fire AND the DWP, then they can come talk to us about making more sacrifices.

As a city worker for 8 years I can tell you that I for one would accept the cut in pay. It is important for those employed by the city, and their families, and for the city in terms of service. We all got to pull together in order to get out of this crisis.

Careful about using the word "pay cut". A paycut is permanent, which would involve renogotiating salaries lower.

The whole premise of a question feeds into the mayor's straw man propoganda that sets working people against each other, feeds desperation and keeps the mayor from answering questions about how we got into this mess.

We city workers (Not including Fire and PD)have already accepted five percent less in pay for furlough and have forwent our raises for the next three years, which at 2% a year wouldn't have even cover CPI increases.
Along with the ERIP, which LACERS hates and thus has sat on to increase its expense and therefore has lost the value for something that could have saved the city tens of millions of dollars if it had been implemented when the unions suggested it almost two years ago, the furloughs have made it more and more difficult to provide the level of public service the public deserves.

The city gov is doing this to blame city workers but it's because of the mayor's lack of foresight and leadership.

The city expects the nonsworn departments which rep only 30% of the discretionary budget to come up with the balance... if sworn at 1.2 bil for PD and 550 mil for FD equals 70% of salary budget, that means that 30% (nonsworn) equals 750 mill budgeted salaries for workers in all city services. Less than ten percent of city budget! Cutting that by ten percent will not alleviate the 232 mill city budget crisis for this year, much less the much worse (400 mill) projections for next year, but will result in drastic changes in levels of service.

Layoffs will do that AND hurt the city economically.

Open the books!

villar raigosa thought this job was going to be a cakewalk like it was for calvin cooldige hahn, being able to skate and then go for governor. Now he's only eligible for clown school

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