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Los Angeles city worker union rejects proposed contract [Updated]

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's first major effort to rein in rising employee healthcare costs ended in tatters Saturday, with most sections of a major union rejecting a proposed contract that would have required them to begin paying for a portion of their insurance.

Three out of four bargaining units within the 4,800-member Engineers and Architects Assn. refused to ratify the agreement, which would have required its members pay 5% of the cost of their monthly premiums, according to preliminary results posted on the union's website.

The defeat followed a campaign by a coalition of six city unions, including the powerful Service Employees International Union Local 721, to torpedo the deal. Those groups called the concessions dangerous and said the proposed contract would have set a precedent for other city workers.

Los Angeles' elected officials have already laid off scores of workers in libraries, parks and other public facilities and are expecting another $320-million budget shortfall next year. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the city's top financial analyst, said more services -- and employees -- will be on the chopping block unless the mayor and council find a way to pare back the cost of benefits.

"Every dollar we save in healthcare and pensions results in fewer layoffs, fewer furloughs and the protection of city services," he said.

Healthcare costs for city employees are expected to jump from $361 million this year to $514 million in 2014, according to city budget figures. Civilian city employees enrolled in Kaiser Permanente currently pay nothing toward their healthcare premiums, officials said.

Villaraigosa's Deputy Chief of Staff, Matt Szabo, did not respond to requests for comment Saturday. But the top executive for Engineers and Architects blamed its rival union for scuttling the deal.

[Updated, 4:03 p.m.: Villaraigosa Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo warned that the Coalition of L.A. City Unions would "very soon regret" its involvement in the vote. He also said the city's financial situation would result in "much harsher measures on coalition members in the future."]

"There was a desperate campaign of misinformation sponsored by SEIU 721 aimed at our voting members, which included phone calls to their homes by SEIU organizers claiming to be 'working with EAA' who then proceeded to urge our members to vote 'no,'" wrote Michael Davies, interim executive director of the Engineers and Architects, in an e-mail.

A spokeswoman for Service Employees International Union Local 721 would not comment, referring calls to Benet Sanchez, a worker with the Engineers and Architects Assn. who stood by the larger campaign.

"Our members were completely capable of making up our own minds," said Sanchez, who works in the city's Bureau of Sanitation.

The proposed labor agreement with the Engineers and Architects would have reduced the number of furlough days for its members from 26 to 10 this year. But it also would have doubled the co-pay for the union's members, from $10 per doctor visit to $20 and set the stage for talks about city's steadily growing pension burden.

The Coalition of L.A. City Unions voiced particular ire that the Engineers and Architects had signed a letter of intent saying that they would be willing to consider paying a larger percentage of their salaries toward their pensions. Although that letter would have led to more negotiations, some leaflets opposing the deal warned that the proposed contract would force employees to give 9% of their salaries toward their pensions, up from 6%.

Pension costs for civilian workers are expected to increase from $299 million this year to $599 million in 2014, according to the city's budget figures. In recent months, former Mayor Richard Riordan has warned that those retirement costs will force the city to file for bankruptcy within four years.

-- David Zahniser

Comments () | Archives (36)

Villaraigosa Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo warned that the Coalition of L.A. City Unions would "very soon regret" its involvement in the vote. He also said the city's financial situation would result in "much harsher measures on coalition members in the future."

Strong arm threats "Chicago Style".

There are plenty of people who want these jobs. Replace them and get real. The tax payers aren't going to subsidize all these pencil pushers anymore.

These union jerks must be too dumb to recognize modern day realities. We the people simply can no longer support the increasing tax burden required to keep these thugs employed in the manner to which they are accustomed. The world is changing and the good old days are gone. If I were Mayor, I'd start a campaign to fire 500 per day until they got the message.

If they can't appreciate the jobs and the benefits they have, lets lay them off slowly and hire true hard working people that will be grateful for the opportunity. The union mentality will eventually cause the city to go broke and declare bankruptcy and that would be in the best interest of the city and its real constituency, its tax paying citizens, who don't get free medical care.

LA is, like CA, on its way to bankruptcy. Actually, the sooner LA realizes that the unions will never be reasonable bargaining partners, especially the SEIU, the sooner it will file bankruptcy and be able to move on.

The politicians have promised far, far more than the citizens can afford to pay. In return the politicians have received political support at the cost of the taxpayers.

Fire all of them...like reagan fired the aircraft controllers

Ca. state is broke and these union has not woken up to see the reality. We are broke and you are not going to get any more of my tax money, you greedy unions. You all should be fired and the State workers should be banned from organizing union like State of Virginia which has surplus this year in their budget. Every one in California needs to wake up, these unions are destroying our state.

So much fun watching the largest enabler of illegal immigration, Los Angeles, fail.
You derserve this.

I can't wait for the city to file for bankruptcy so that all the city contracts will be void. Then they can make these leeches accept the reality of our economy. People are losing their jobs and these idiots continue to insist on getting paid like there's an endless pit of money. NO ONE gets pensions and health benefits like government workers. Put them all on 401k systems with high co-pay health insurance! Stop throwing our tax money away. Something needs to be done to eliminate the power Unions have over our politicians.

More proof that, eventually, labor unions are going to destroy this city. While it is clear that the city's government overspent, and continues to overspend, the reality is that SEIU leadership is completely out of touch with reality. In many private sectors, employees are expected to contribute much greater sums of their money to the employer-sponsored health insurance plan. That these guys want to continue to skate on this in a time of economic turmoil, rising inflation and skyrocketing healthcare costs is reprehensible, but totally typical of organized labor unions.

Every public employee should pay their own health care and pension costs, just as taxpayers do. And neither cops, fire fighters or teachers should be allowed any longer to allowed to avoid paying social security taxes. Social security is the only reliable retirement income for most taxpayers.

Fire all of them. They are overpaid and lazy. I am sure there are more talented people out there and if they don't want to make a small sacrifice, then taxpayer should not be burden of the raising cost while the private sectors don't even have a health insurance, pension plan and a big fat pay check every month. Fire them all!!!! It's ok the service will disruptated and the private sector will understand why.

Oh, what's the matter? Was there not enough gold bullion offered to satisfy the rapacious hordes of greedy union employees? How callous of us.

Fire them all....let's save our money.!!!!

Takes courage to bring change.

Sue the unions and fire them and hire people who think, not

bow to corruption.

Hey, City workers and their union members. Ask the mayor and the city council are taking significant reductions in their salaries, turning in their city cars, cutting or laying off staff members and eliminating body guard services? Of course they are not... So, tell the mayor and council to shove any layoffs, and other cuts down their faces until they are willing ro share them pain. Maybe we need 2 to 3 less council members. Maybe the role of mayor can rotate among the council members.
Let's get some real executive leadership in city hall not these pretenders.

These unions and especially the SEIU which seem to lie as their buddy Obamanation does, will keep your city in hock. With the unemployment as high as it is I am sure there are 1000 of people to take the jobs these leeches will not negotiate on

This is ridiculous! As a Federal employee, I pay about 25% of my health care premiums! Why can't the City employees be bothered to pay even 5%?!?!?!

Fire them all. Ban public employee unions.

Fiscal problem solved.

Public employees have rejected what is probably a very reasonable offer, given the present condition of our economy.

Good. Fire them all.

The solution here is quite simple: Stop hiring to fill semi-skilled positions such as landscaping (mowing), tree trimming, trash pickup, painting, etc that can be easily contracted out. The transition to contract maintenance and services can be readily made by selecting areas, parks, buildings, etc to contract out, and expanding over time.

LA will save a fortune in labor costs, future pension costs, health care etc.
Additional benefits will arise from the new competition for City workers and the unions panic at the prospect of steady erosion of their dues income. When the union bosses have to choose between their dues income or concessions on worker benefits, guess what gets priority every time?

Fire them and hire non-union workers

Union members 5% of their premium, how greedy of the tax payers to think that union members should kick in that much. Next thing you know the tax payers will be asking union members to work their full shift or even work at all.

Not all City unions are doing everything the same way. The misconception is that a city union is a city union is a city union. This is just not the case. If it was they would all be making DWP wages and be immune from all layoffs AND furloughs. The truth is that the furlough burden is being placed on a minority of City workers. The ones I talked to have already agreed to increased retirement contributions, wage freezes and have voluntarily reduced hours off each pay period. The mayor has broken this signed agreement and as a result has cost the city millions more than he would have saved if he had stuck to the signed agreement. The truth is that he is misdirecting attention away from the City's spending habits. The Mayor and City Council still think that contracting out is the way to go. Think again. The City has over $440M dollars in uncollected tax debt from parking contractors. Did the union have anything to do with that? Let's start connecting the dots here. The City Controller already identified a $260M annual loss in uncollected parking fines. The unions are to blame for that too, right? It's time to wake up and start looking over the Mayor and City Council's shoulder when the decisions are made. Other wise we're going to wind up like the City of Bell. And nobody wants that ......or do they?


Don't get mad at the union workers for not voting yes to pay partial of the health care benefits. Why is the Mayor keep targeting to cut the workers who actually do the work?? Why doesn't the Mayor purpose to cut all the City Manager's top dollars salary? Haven't anyone heard about City of Bell?? For all of you, who so quickly criticize the City union workers, shame on you! It's not the workers who are making six figures salary and pension; it's the City Managers. Why doesn't anyone suggest to Mayor Villaraigosa to ask the General Managers/City Managers/City Councils to take a 25-50% pay cut on their six figures salary. If one City manager makes $275,000 a year, he/she can take a 50% pay cut, then one City manager can save $137,500 a year. City of Los Angeles has more than 15 City managers and 15 City Councils; the Mayor should start from the top. Please remember those top salary City managers were once "Pencil Pushers" too.
P.S. Most of the City workers are already taking 26 mandatory furlough days and maybe it's time for the City General Managers to take a 25-50% pay cut!!!!

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