In Defense of County Workers

On Dec. 15 Los Angeles County Supervisor Pete Schabarum requested a measure to amend the county charter to prohibit county employees from striking (Metro, Dec. 16). This was his solution for preventing situations similar to the two-day sickout by county court employees.

In making this motion Schabarum chose to ignore the fact that this particular group of employees had been working without a new contract since Sept. 30, and that it was the county that suspended negotiations, choosing mediation instead.

I suggest that the answer to preventing such work actions in the future lies not in restricting employee rights, but rather in working toward better faith bargaining with more realistic proposals from both sides, and, in the event these efforts fail, then binding arbitration as a last resort.

Also, it might help if county supervisors presented a less antagonistic posture in dealing with their workers. I was employed in private industry for several years before taking a job with the county. I know firsthand that the vast majority of county employees are conscientious, honest, hard-working people doing an excellent job. And county people are there when needed for any emergency. Ever try to get a plumber out at night? Then imagine finding someone to get runway lights back on in a storm when the line is buried in the ground and the ground is concrete. I have worked 50 feet up repairing electrical line when the chill factor put the temperature below zero. Call a contractor for the job and he would probably say next week.

Yet, Schabarum would like all county jobs to go to private contractors, even though evidence shows that the work done by these contractors costs taxpayers considerably more than the same job done by county personnel. Many times I and my co-workers have had to follow along behind these workers fixing what they failed to do right.

The county is getting a bargain by having its own work force. It's too bad this fact is overlooked.



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