Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is taking his message on Department of Water and Power salary negotiations directly to the public, calling on Angelenos to support him by signing an online petition entitled "Fix DWP!"
The new petition drafted by Garcetti asks Angelenos to support him as he attempts to end "secret deals on costly work rules and perks." Garcetti announced last week that he would not sign a proposed four-year salary agreement with the DWP employee union because it does not go far enough in allowing city officials to change costly or inefficient work rules at the utility.
Garcetti spent 45 minutes Monday night talking to and taking questions from members of the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, a group consisting of activists from across the city.
He told the group of roughly 75 to share their views with council members, many of whom have praised the pay agreement in recent days.
"You can be the bulwark," he told the City Hall gathering. "You each not only have a mayor, but you each have council members, and they must hear your voice."
Council members have praised the agreement's major deal points and begun worrying publicly that the proposed talks could collapse if city leaders press for more significant concessions.
Backers say that it will save $4 billion over 30 years, adjusted for inflation, in large part by reducing projected pension costs. Under the deal, DWP employees would go three years without raises, followed by a salary increase of up to 4% in 2016.
Future DWP employees would get retirement benefits that are less lucrative than those promised to existing workers.
Hours before Garcetti spoke, three council members from the San Fernando Valley said the city needs a deal within weeks to prevent a 2% pay increase from going into effect in October.
“If we can avoid that [raise], I think that’s a big win for ratepayers,” said Councilman Paul Krekorian.
The city's budget analysts contend that as much as a third of the DWP's work force could retire in the next four years, allowing for more than 2,000 new workers to be hired under a less expensive pension plan.
Garcetti has acknowledged the proposed agreement contains pension savings. But he criticized the size of a raise planned for DWP workers in 2016, which would range from 0% to 4%, depending on inflation.
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, which represents DWP workers, and its affiliates spent $2 million to defeat Garcetti in the May election.
In recent days, the union has argued publicly that the proposed salary agreement will create "pension sustainability and affordable rates for DWP customers."
Garcetti said he would have pursued additional concessions regardless of the union's campaign activities.
"This is not about politics for me and this is not about personality," he told the group. "This is about doing what is right and what I was elected to do: to reform the Department of Water and Power and to reform this city."