Garcetti campaign expects union to endorse Greuel
A spokesman for Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti said he believes one of the city’s most powerful public employee unions on Wednesday will be endorsing his rival, City Controller Wendy Greuel.
Jeff Millman called the expected endorsement by the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union a backlash to Garcetti's "leadership on pension reform."
"Eric had to make difficult choices when others refused to step up and lead the city to make real pension reform and balance the budget," Millman said. "It appears that SEIU 721 doesn't want that."
The president of the union, Bob Schoonover, said the union would be making its endorsement at an 11:30 a.m. news conference Tuesday but would not say who the union has picked.
The SEIU’s announcement comes one month after Greuel criticized Garcetti in a closed-door meeting with the union over his support for layoffs and furloughs, both of which were approved by the council between 2010 and 2011 to stave off a major budget crisis.
In audio obtained by The Times, Greuel also hit Garcetti over his vote last fall to hike the retirement age and reduce pensions benefits for newly hired civilian city employees, pointing out that the city did not engage in collective bargaining before approving the changes.
SEIU could provide yet another source of union money to bolster Greuel's mayoral bid. A campaign committee affiliated with the union that represents Department of Water and Power employees has spent more than $2 million on commercials, billboards and other expenses supporting Greuel and attacking three of her opponents. Unions representing police officers and firefighters have also spent six-figure sums in support of Greuel.
Because she was off the council in July 2009, Greuel did not take part in some of the city's most difficult budget-cutting votes. That has allowed her to set herself apart from Garcetti and Councilwoman Jan Perry during the primary campaign.
Appearing at the SEIU's members-only candidate interviews in December, she criticized the council's layoffs proposals and told union members they needed someone who would be with them "every step of the way." That same month, political directors of the SEIU ranked Greuel as a 4.3 out of 5, with 5 signifying that a candidate is "strongly pro worker."
Greuel, meanwhile, did not mince words in her election night speech—telling supporters that Garcetti was not to be trusted, which she said was the reason she has drawn support from labor unions and members of the business community. She noted that the city’s current fiscal path is unsustainable.
“We are going to have to make difficult choices with respect to our pension and healthcare systems, and both business and labor want a mayor who they can trust to sit at the table with them and together bring about change, which is fair and that works for everyone,” Greuel said. “They want to have a mayor who they know will not say one thing to one group and completely the opposite to the other. They want a mayor that will lead. I will be that mayor.”
“They want a mayor who will be a straight talker with them even if it’s what they don’t want to hear,” Greuel said. “I will be that mayor.”
-- Kate Linthicum and Maeve Reston
Photo: L.A. mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel monitors election results with her son and husband at an election-night gathering in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times