About 200 Glendale Water & Power employees and their Los Angeles counterparts demonstrated in support of a new contract outside Glendale City Hall Tuesday after the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 rejected a proposed agreement with the city the night before.
Cars honked as the utility workers protested along Broadway, hoisting signs aimed at ratepayers. Some of them read, “City of Glendale Unfair to GWP Ratepayers,” and “Tell City Stop the Hidden Taxes on Ratepayers.”
Union spokesman Martin Marrufo said the signs referred to the millions of dollars the city transfers every year from Glendale Water & Power to the General Fund, which pays for most public services. The city halted a controversial water transfer to prevent litigation issues, but continues to transfer from the electrical side of the utility.
“What we want is for them to pay for water and power first,” Marrufo said.
Glendale Human Resources Director Matt Doyle said the city has been working with the union to settle a contract.
“We respect these employees greatly. We've given them our utmost respect and undivided attention for the past 10 months,” Doyle said.
But the union membership rejected the proposed contract Monday, partially due to a requirement to increase employee contributions to retirement funds, Marrufo said.
“They're paying more than their share,” he said. “That's not equitable and that's our issue.”
Doyle said Glendale Water & Power employees currently pay 8.5% of their salaries into their retirement benefits, 0.5% of it being the city's share.
“They're the lowest of all the city bargaining groups,” he said, noting that police officials pay 12.5% and fire officials pay 11%.
FOR THE RECORD: A previous version of ths article incorrectly stated that both police and fire employees pay 12.5% of their salaries into their retirement benefits.
The city must now send a response to IBEW's rejection. What happens next depends on the union's response, Doyle said.
Glendale Water & Power employees urged City Council members at the meeting Tuesday to focus on funding capital improvements, as well as keeping a high-quality workforce. The council approved increasing water rates recently in order to wipe away millions in red ink, prepare the utility for a bond issuance and generate funds to clean corroded pipes, finish well projects and other infrastructure needs.
“I guess the bottom line is, if skilled workers have a choice that makes more sense, they'll leave,” said Grayson Power Plant worker James Griggs. “Do you really want to be at the bottom of the utility wage scale?”
Glendale Water & Power General Manager Glenn Steiger has said that about 15% of the utility's budget pays for employees.
Negotiations began after years of conflict between Glendale City Employees Assn., the city's largest municipal union, and a faction that had been pushing to join the politically powerful IBEW. Hundreds of utility workers demonstrated on the steps of City Hall in support of new union representation two years ago.
The IBEW is the fifth union to represent the city workforce.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times