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Unions representing 6,300 L.A. workers reject Villaraigosa's labor deal

April 27, 2011 | 11:44 am

Four out of 18 labor groups at Los Angeles City Hall have rejected Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s proposal for reducing the city's budget shortfall by scaling back the cost of the workforce, setting the stage for a possible new round of furloughs for workers in those units.

City officials said bargaining units representing more than 6,300 full-time workers -- airport security officers, 911 operators, traffic officers, deputy city attorneys, clerical workers and others -- voted against the agreement negotiated last month by the mayor and leaders of the Coalition of L.A. City Unions. That number represents nearly a third of the coalition’s 19,000 members.

Villaraigosa and City Council President Eric Garcetti are set to hold a news conference on the topic at noon Wednesday. The mayor warned last week that any labor unit that failed to approve the deal would be hit with more than seven weeks of furloughs in the budget year that starts July 1.

Employees in the 14 units that voted for the pact included librarians, recreation workers, part-time crossing guards and administrative assistants. “We came together in the best interest of both workers and Los Angeles residents,” said Tim Butcher, a heavy-duty truck operator with the Bureau of Street Services.

Supporters of the deal said it would guarantee an important healthcare benefit for city workers, while opponents said the mayor could not be trusted to keep his promises to avoid layoffs and furloughs.

Union leaders also have the option of seeking a second vote from the units that failed to ratify the deal.

Villaraigosa and coalition leaders had repeatedly billed the pact as a way to end furloughs. That argument was undermined somewhat by the fact that the vast majority of workers -– including sanitation workers, librarians, landscapers, street light maintenance crews, zookeepers and every employee at the harbor and airports –- have already been spared from taking unpaid days off.

Among those who voted against the deal was the union representing 461 lawyers at City Atty. Carmen Trutanich’s office. That group voted 248 to 143 to oppose the pact, said Oscar Winslow, president of the Los Angeles City Attorneys' Assn. “There was a lot of push on the other side to vote for it, but in the end, people looked at it and said this is a bad deal for us,” he said.

The pact included the postponement of three pay increases totaling 7.25% by one to three years. The units that voted for the pact also agreed to take a 1.5% pay cut this year in exchange for four days off the week of Christmas.

Proceeds of the 4% reduction in pay will go toward rising retiree healthcare costs. In return, the city will guarantee medical coverage for retired workers and their spouses, including all future premium increases, according to union officials.

The deal did not cover sworn employees, such as police officers and firefighters, or workers at the Department of Water and Power, all of whom are also exempt from furloughs.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

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