L.A. mayor’s race: SEIU, a key city union, endorses Wendy Greuel
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The SEIU 721, one of the city’s most powerful public employee unions, Wednesday endorsed City Controller Wendy Greuel for mayor of Los Angeles, consolidating her backing by influential labor groups as she faces Councilman Eric Garcetti in the May 21 runoff.
Service Employees International Union 721, which represents 10,000 city workers and tens of thousands of county workers who live in Los Angeles, announced its backing just hours after the polls closed for the primary election.
The union had declined to endorse in the primary.
Union President Bob Schoonover said Greuel has a clear vision and would be ‘a champion for working families at City Hall.’
‘She is smart, tough, knows this city and is willing to do what’s right for all Angelenos,’' Schoonover said in a statement. ‘Our members trust her leadership and stand behind her 100 percent.”
A spokesman for Garcetti said the union’s decision to go with Greuel was payback for the councilman’s vote last year to trim pension benefits.
‘Eric had to make difficult choices when others refused to step up and lead the city to make real pension reform and balance the budget,’ Jeff Millman said. ‘It appears that SEIU 721 doesn’t want that.’
SEIU will hold an 11:30 a.m. news conference to discuss its decision, with Greuel in attendance. The labor group’s announcement comes a month after Greuel criticized Garcetti in a closed-door meeting with the union over his support for layoffs and furloughs, both of which were approved by the council between 2010 and 2011 to stave off a major budget crisis.
A campaign committee affiliated with the union that represents Department of Water and Power employees has spent more than $2 million on commercials, billboards and other expenses supporting Greuel and attacking three of her opponents. Unions representing police officers and firefighters have also spent six-figure sums in support of Greuel. PHOTOS: Los Angeles voters go to the polls
Because she was off the council in July 2009, Greuel did not take part in some of the city’s most difficult budget-cutting votes. That allowed her to set herself apart from Garcetti and Councilwoman Jan Perry during the primary campaign.
Perry failed to make the runoff in Tuesday’s balloting.
Appearing at the SEIU’s members-only candidate interviews in December, Greuel criticized the council’s layoffs proposals and told union members they needed someone who would be with them ‘every step of the way.’ That same month, political directors of the SEIU ranked Greuel as a 4.3 out of 5, with 5 signifying that a candidate is ‘strongly pro-worker.’
Greuel, meanwhile, did not mince words in her election night speech -- telling supporters that Garcetti was not to be trusted, which she said was the reason she has drawn support from labor unions and members of the business community. She noted that the city’s current fiscal path is unsustainable.
“We are going to have to make difficult choices with respect to our pension and healthcare systems, and both business and labor want a mayor who they can trust to sit at the table with them and together bring about change, which is fair and that works for everyone,” Greuel said. “They want to have a mayor who they know will not say one thing to one group and completely the opposite to the other. They want a mayor that will lead. I will be that mayor.”
“They want a mayor who will be a straight talker with them even if it’s what they don’t want to hear,” she continued. “I will be that mayor.
-- Kate Linthicum, Maeve Reston and Catherine Saillant