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Pension rollback passed by Los Angeles City Council

October 26, 2012 | 12:49 pm

Antonio villaraigosa speaks
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to roll back retirement benefits of newly hired employees won final approval Friday, despite opposition from an array of labor leaders across Southern California.

The City Council cast its second and final vote on a proposal to hike the retirement age to 65 and require  city workers to pay more toward their retirement funds in years when the value of investments declines. Under the plan, spouses of those workers would no longer be eligible for city-funded healthcare.

The vote comes a week after two dozen labor leaders, including representatives of teachers, firefighters and employees of the Department of Water and Power, asked council members to abandon the plan, saying city workers have already made concessions on retirement benefits. Maria Elena Durazo, who heads the county Federation of Labor, urged the council to obtain an analysis of the plan from the city’s retirement fund before casting its vote.

“You are taking a drastic step, potentially pushing city workers into poverty when they retire, without having the facts, and it is going to come back and haunt you,” Durazo told the council. She also suggested that lawmakers had devoted more time to the fate of a popular animal at the Los Angeles Zoo.

“You have spent more time saving Billy the elephant than considering the retirement of workers, human beings that collect the trash, clean the sewers, inspect our buildings,” she said.

The vote was 10 to 0. Five council members were absent: Richard Alarcon, Tony Cardenas, Jose Huizar, Tom LaBonge and Ed Reyes.

Villaraigosa's pension reform plan has been criticized as too weak by former Mayor Richard Riordan, who is gathering signatures for a more drastic ballot measure, which would push newly hired workers into 401(k)-style retirement plans. Riordan's proposal would also cut benefits for existing workers.

The mayor's plan would not apply to police officers, firefighters or DWP employees. Riordan's would cover every city employee.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

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