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L.A. firefighters vote against more dues for political campaigns

L.A. firefighters vote against more dues for political campaigns
United Firefighters of Los Angeles City President Frank Lima, center, at a news conference in April denouncing cutbacks to the Fire Department. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Members of the union representing Los Angeles firefighters voted down a proposal to increase dues to finance aggressive political campaigns, union leaders said Tuesday.

The leadership of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City wanted members to pay $38 per paycheck in union dues, up from $19, to increase the amount of money in the group's political action committee.

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The organization represents about 3,200 members from the rank of firefighter to captain.

Union President Frank Lima said Tuesday that the proposal was rejected in a close vote by more than 800 members who casted ballots. The votes were counted Monday.

"A little more than 400 voted against it," Lima said,  "and a little under 400 voted for it."

He said union leaders would resurrect the proposal next year, saying that the group's leadership needed to educate more members about the benefits of having a well-funded political action committee.

Lima said more money was needed for the union to reward its allies and campaign against elected officials who fail to support firefighters.

"We have to do it," Lima told The Times. "Ten years from now, when I'm gone, I want the union to be in a better place."

Earlier this month, the union posted a video on YouTube urging its membership to approve the dues increase. The union deleted the video after it was featured in a Times report.

"It's about strength and fear, and we need to be strong right now," Lima said in the video.

Lima said in an interview this month that his use of the word "fear" referred to firefighters who are worried about their reduced staffing and benefits, not any effort to pressure lawmakers.

The union is backing Wendy Greuel against Eric Garcetti in the Los Angeles mayoral race, which was in its final hours Tuesday as voters were casting ballots at polling places across the city. On Monday, Lima said in a robo-call to voters that Garcetti supported budget cuts at the LAFD that had "cost lives."

The union has made at least $425,000 in independent expenditures -- campaign donations that don't have to abide by city contribution limits -- in this year's election, most of it to support Greuel.

The union has also directly contributed at least $2,600 to Greuel's campaign since February, accrording to online records maintained by the city Ethics Commission.

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robert.lopez@latimes.com

ben.welsh@latimes.com


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