Sickouts underway at two Los Angeles city departments, officials say

Los Angeles city workers stage sickout

Dozens of workers from at least two Los Angeles city departments called in sick Wednesday in a job action apparently intended to register unhappiness with labor contract negotiations, officials said.

Department of Transportation spokesman Bruce Gillman confirmed that a higher-than-normal number of transportation officers were absent, but said he did not yet have specific totals.

Bureau of Sanitation managers, meanwhile, received an email yesterday notifying them to prepare for a widespread absence of workers Wednesday.

Coral Itzcalli, a spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union Local 721, said the union didn't organize the sickout or condone it. The union represents about 800 sanitation workers.

Scott Mann of the Los Angeles Coalition of City Unions, representing several of the unions involved in current labor talks, said his organization also wasn't involved.

Talks between city officials and the Coalition of L.A. City Unions -- which represents roughly 20,000 public employees ranging from garbage truck drivers to librarians -- have been stalled for about a year. The coalition is the last major labor group that has yet to renegotiate its contract with the city, led by Mayor Eric Garcetti, who took office in 2013.

Sticking points have included the city’s demands that coalition workers forgo raises for three years and contribute more toward their healthcare premiums. Many coalition workers currently pay no premiums. The coalition’s last contract, secured in 2007, shortly before the Great Recession, included 24.5% pay increases.

Union leaders argue that despite those raises their employees have already suffered because of the city’s budgetary woes, agreeing to furlough days and greater contributions to their pensions.

Tension has mounted as the impasse in negotiations has dragged on. Coalition employees, who represent more than half the city’s civilian workforce, have been working without a contract since last summer. In February, Coalition workers across the city staged demonstrations.

Transportation officers issue parking citations on city streets and help with traffic flow at intersections where street lights are disabled, Gillman said.

Sanitation workers collect solid waste and maintain the city's network of sewers. 

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