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L.A. unions intend to disrupt campaign for city pension change

November 17, 2012 |  9:52 am

Los Angeles labor activists are expected to fan out across the city Saturday in "rapid-response" teams to disrupt former Mayor Richard Riordan's attempt to get a pension initiative on next year's city ballot.

"I'm not going to lie,'' said Cherri Senders, spokeswoman for Keep LA Strong, a group made of city worker unions, activists and left-leaning civic groups. "We're doing what unions do best. We're trying to be a little naughty."

Riordan needs roughly 265,000 signatures to qualify his pension measure for the May ballot. The initiative would ask voters to change the retirement benefits offered new city workers from a taxpayer-backed pension to a 401(k)-style plan.

The switch is needed to stabilize the city's budget, which faces a $215-million deficit next year, Riordan has said. Rising pension costs are contributing to chronic shortfalls that strip the city of its ability to provide basic services, such as paving roads and running libraries, he has said.

Labor groups will rally in mid-city and then fan out to "educate" voters at locations where Riordan's paid signature-gatherers are spied working, Senders said.

"We'll explain to people why it's not good to sign,'' she said. "It's bad for L.A. It's bad for middle-class workers."

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-- Catherine Saillant

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