Letter from the President: Layoffs Don’t Make Sense for LA
June 1, 2010 By Bob Schoonover SEIU 721 President
In January we were facing a $600 million shortfall as projected by the CAO. Here in late May the ever-changing number seems to be about $100 million.
The City’s adopted a budget with a bunch of holes in it. The city wants to fill those holes with 761 worker layoffs now, add 1,000 more later, and throw 26 furlough days on top of all that–or fill it with worker concessions.
In meetings this spring with the CAO, Mayor’s office, and City Council, union members and leaders have had one consistent message: We won’t take any steps backward, and we have a better solution. Last year we made a tremendous sacrifice, voting to put off our contract raises and give up hours to see our city through this crisis. That’s hurt my family, and I know it’s hurt yours too.
So when politicians talk about how we need to “step up” with concessions, that’s why I told the Los Angeles Times two weeks ago, “We’ve already done that.” That’s why sanitation workers drove trash trucks with signs reading, “Don’t give up on LA, Mr. Mayor”–because to me, that’s what rejecting our sacrifice, cutting services and furloughing workers would mean.
What happens if the city lays off a Coalition member? Under our agreement, if even one Coalition worker is laid off we all get our raises. The City Council voted unanimously for that plan, so they can’t pretend they don’t remember.
Why would we give the city new concessions when we can’t get them to take the one we already gave? Without real leadership at City Hall, there’s no end in sight.
Here’s the alternative: Our work to find new revenues and management cost-savings has already shrunk the shortfall. Some City Council members have really stood strong for city services. Street Services GM Bill Robertson is already on record saying that the general managers of the city had a plan for cuts without layoffs. This budget hole is not structural–it’s only there because of the recession. So it makes no sense to fill it with layoffs–a structural change that does long-term damage to the city’s ability to deliver the services people need in good times and bad.
Let’s look at the big picture. The city workforce has already reduced itself in just the last year by 3,500 workers through early retirement and normal attrition–down to 1997 levels. If you add those 700 to 1,700 layoffs coupled with furloughs the effects on public service and public safety will be dramatic.
It’s going to take the mayor and elected officials to get us out of this.