Bob Schoonover makes it clear in this piece he wrote, LA City Workers are done with concessions not just this budget year but next as well!
Read his great piece below.
Don’t Give Up on LA
By Bob Schoonover
As of today, city workers are the only stakeholders who have taken aggressive and effective action to address the budget shortfall. Fitch’s last observations about the City’s finances note the coalition agreement as structural, substantive budget action. Even the LA Times begrudgingly acknowledged that LA’s frontline service workers have good ideas about delivering quality cost-effective services.
The labor agreement reached last fall with 22,000 city workers delayed four contractually obligated raises to workers in jobs as varied as these: librarians, refuse drivers, 911 police civilians, recreation & parks workers, sewer & wastewater workers, street services workers, zoo workers, police & fire mechanics, building trades workers, engineers, chemists, criminalists, and crossing guards to name a few.
We eliminated millions in overtime, agreed to limited unpaid hours off this year, and to increase our pension contributions. The immediate budget savings are $153 million this year, $323 million in the first two, and $2.12 billion over five years.
Since our members approved this agreement, the City has overspent budgeted expenditures by $98.7 million and approved raises to DWP workers that now endanger the utility’s ability to meet its commitment to the City of Los Angeles.
Some businesses propose a fire sale of City assets to themselves, and a reduction of City employee pay, benefits, and pensions to match what they would like to offer their own employees.
The CAO’s three-year budget proposal seeks to privatize the City’s Zoo, golf courses, parking lots, parking meters, maintenance including safety equipment and vehicles, Convention Center, ambulance billing, tree trimming, street sweeping, engineering, park maintenance, childcare services, arts, culture, & El Pueblo.
The City does not provide these services and maintain these facilities for profit. These are services and facilities that the public and the business community expect from a major city. LA workers will not stand for commercialization of municipal services, conversion of self-sustaining City assets to corporate cash cows, and loss of the facilities the City owns to line the pockets of LA’s richest suits.
The people of Los Angeles pay dearly for quality cost-effective city services and the workers of LA gave city management the tools they needed to make city government work the way it should – efficiently, publicly, focused and essential.
We expected retirements to occur randomly and all across the top levels of city government. Given that, we’ve encouraged smart, strategic consolidations of city functions.
Does it really make sense that seven different city departments trim trees – that LAWA contracts out tree trimming for a cost of $800 a tree while the CAO is proposing to offload tree trimming onto the fiscal backs of us home owners?
Now, I’m pretty conservative, but I believe trees belong to the whole City. It’s work that enhances public safety and the quality of LA life. The response of LA’s urban forestry workers during recent rains reminds all of us why it’s critical to have professional arborists and skilled city tree surgeons who cost considerably less than private tree work and provide reliable service.
Contracting just 10% of the tree work DWP contracts out would keep every city tree crew working for a year.
On Friday, the Mayor addressed union leaders at the County Federation of Labor. He was pressed by Cheryl Parisi, chair of the Coalition of City Unions, AFSCME 36 head: “You come here to the House of Labor, talking about unavoidable layoffs. Yesterday, when you spoke in the Cathedral of Business, did you ask them to pony up with a 10% across-the-board cut to the $2.5 billion in private business done with the City of Los Angeles?”
He answered that in response to a question from David Abel, he announced that he was calling for a 20% cut in contracts. That’s good news because that’s worth $500 million. That matches the $400 – 600 million in reported outstanding debt owed to the City.
After the staff of the CAO’s office worked hard to process thousands of early retirement applications, LACERS dragged its bureaucratic feet then rewarded GM Sally Choi with a raise.
Last week, the LACERS board’s mayoral appointees hired an additional Assistant General Manager, not even affording that opportunity to someone struggling on the City’s beleaguered general fund.
Retiring all ERIP applicants within 30 days saves $22 million this year. Encouraging the retirement of an additional 300 applicants adds $10 million savings this year.
For 15 years traffic officers have advocated that the collection of parking tickets should be in-sourced. Two hundred twenty million of the City’s uncollected debt is uncollected parking ticket revenue. ACS, the company responsible for collecting parking tickets for the City, still owes the Department of Transportation $141 million in services and technology products.
City Attorneys represented by SEIU 721 will be meeting this week in part to identify ways they can help bolster collections. Ideas put forth by city workers are worth hundreds of millions in city services.
LA’s unions did not create this emergency, yet we are the first and only responders. The City has misinterpreted our forceful and massive relief effort as weakness. The City’s agreement with its unions protects coalition members from being laid off this fiscal year. The Mayor’s decision to devastate city services as he formulates his 2010-11 budget will cost the City added millions in deferred raises.
Our members have voted to give all they can afford to give. They say, “No more. We are tapped out.”
As a leader of these workers, I say, “NO MORE FROM US!” We have given the City the flexibility, the tools, and the materials necessary to get this job done.
We don’t want to hear that we are now expendable and should be laid off. We want to see sensible actions and programs that use the City work force to get this city back on its feet.
(Bob Schoonover is President of SEIU Local 721; Heavy Duty Equipment Mechanic, General Services — 31 years)