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Headed for May 21 runoff, Greuel gets influential labor backing

March 6, 2013 |  5:22 pm

Standing aside Los Angeles trash collectors and machinists, mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel accepted the endorsement Wednesday of a powerful city workers union the morning after she won a spot in the May 21 runoff. She pledged to make sure labor has a role as the city struggles to navigate its dire financial straits.

“I am so grateful to the workers who every single day provide the services to our residents. Let’s not demonize them, let’s not divide our city. Let’s support our city,” Greuel said, accepting the endorsement of Service Employees International Union, Local 721, which represents 10,000 city workers. “Let’s support our workers, let’s support business and let’s support a brighter future because each of us can make a difference. It means the world to me to stand here today with all of you because you make us proud.”

If she is elected mayor, City Controller Greuel will face tough financial decisions that were exacerbated by the loss of Measure A on Tuesday, the half-cent sales tax measure. She said she could not rule out layoffs or furloughs, but pledged to work with all interests to find a solution.

“We can do this without balancing the city budget on the backs of working people. We can do this by not dividing our city but in fact bringing our city together. Does the city need to make changes in how we operate, collect and spend resources? Absolutely,” she said, adding that the city workers she stood with at the SEIU endorsement were part of the solution. “But I believe many of these changes that have happened in the city could have been done differently, through collaboration, partnership, collective bargaining with our city workers instead of behind closed doors. I think that’s important.”

The endorsement announcement was in a conference room at the union headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, adorned with a large freshly printed “Wendy for Mayor” poster in the union’s signature colors of purple and yellow. City workers surrounded the candidate, holding signs in the same colors that said, “LA City Workers for Wendy.”

“I should have worn my purple today,” said Greuel, who was wearing a periwinkle blazer, and who also won the backing of another large SEIU local that represents long-term care workers. It’s unclear how much money the groups will put into the race, but they have a veritable army of workers that can be deployed to knock on doors and phone voters.

A spokesman for Greuel’s runoff rival, City Councilman Eric Garcetti, said the controller received the SEIU nod because Garcetti showed he was willing to stand up to them.

“Eric led negotiations with city unions that led to real pension reforms and balanced budgets,” said spokesman Jeff Millman. “ … it appears the union's leadership is convinced Greuel will do what they say, rather than be an independent mayor like Eric.”

But Greuel noted that the endorsements she has received are not only from many unions but also from major business groups.

“These two groups -– labor and business -– consolidated before me because they know I’m honest and fair and I will always give them a seat at the table,” Greuel said. “They know I will be a mayor who says what I mean and does what I say. It’s time for action, not rhetoric. We need a mayor who doesn’t just talk the talk, but walks the walk.”

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-- Seema Mehta

Twitter.com/LATSeema

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