City Braces for Cutbacks in Defense Work : Economy: Southland stands to get hit especially hard. Council clears a thicket of regulations to be able to help displaced workers quickly.
The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday began preparing to deal with plant closures and layoffs that are anticipated in Southern California’s defense and aerospace industries despite the current U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf.
The council cleared away a thicket of cumbersome regulations to enable city officials to quickly obtain federal funds for retraining and counseling displaced workers.
The Southland is expected to be hit especially hard by expected defense cutbacks because about 60% of the state’s huge aerospace industry work force is located in Los Angeles County. Rod Hanks, chairman of the Los Angeles County Private Industry Council, said that up to 20,000 aerospace workers are expected to be laid off in the county by the end of the year, which will lead to double-digit unemployment.
In a series of actions Wednesday, the City Council named the mayor as the elected official who private companies, under 1988 federal legislation, are to notify of pending plant shutdowns.
A meeting of the full council was convened at a senior citizens center in North Hollywood to review the economic impact of defense cutbacks. Since last May, a committee chaired by Councilman Robert Farrell has held several meetings throughout the city.
The council action came after the head of the UCLA Business Forecasting Project warned lawmakers that the nation’s current military involvement in the Middle East will not stop defense cutbacks.
Despite the situation in Iraq, “the fundamental factors driving the push to cut defenses are still intact and . . . California must continue planning for a major rollback in military spending,” said David Hensley, acting director of the UCLA project.
“Given the recent deterioration in the national economy, we believe there is a better than 50% chance that the U.S. is either in or will soon be in economic recession,” Hensley said. “Separately, California is showing unmistakable signs of economic weakness,” including a “crumbling” of the housing market.
Hanks of the Los Angeles County Private Industry Council said that a predicted 20,000 layoffs at the facilities of five major defense contractors in the county could have a domino effect. He said that for every job lost by a prime contractor, four jobs are lost among subcontractors and suppliers, so the losses could be as high as 100,000 jobs.
Such grim predictions brought out a measure of anger among some lawmakers, who took potshots at Lockheed’s decision in May to shut down its Burbank aerospace plant by the mid-1990s.
City Council President John Ferraro suggested that the aerospace giant was moving much of its production line to Georgia because some of that state’s congressmen, such as Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, sit on key Capitol Hill committees.
“I think political realities . . . have a lot of influence on what Lockheed is doing,” Ferraro said.
But corporate spokesman Robert Cannon said Lockheed was moving because its Burbank plant is aged and there is not enough defense work to support it. When the plant closure announcement was made, Lockheed had 10,500 employees at its 320-acre Burbank facility.
Others, like Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, blamed government itself for businesses leaving California for other states, some of which she said are “more business friendly.”
Hensley agreed, saying housing affordability, traffic, environmental regulations and educational opportunities are causing businesses to think twice about staying in Los Angeles County.
To grapple with the prospects of defense cutbacks, the city designated Mayor Tom Bradley as the official that industries must notify under the 1988 Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. That act requires companies that plan to lay off sizable numbers of workers to notify local elected officials.
The council also ordered that its own rules governing grant applications be suspended to allow the city’s Community Development Department chief, Parker Anderson, to quickly apply for federal funds to help with retraining, counseling and relocation of workers affected by plant closures.
The current rules hinder efforts to obtain federal grants that can be used to finance relief efforts in plant closure situations, according to a city budget office report.
The council also gave the go-ahead for a concerted effort by the county’s eight Private Industry Councils to coordinate their efforts in retraining laid-off aerospace industry workers. The councils are nonprofit, quasi-governmental agencies that receive federal job training funds.
Cooperation can clear away existing jurisdictional barriers to effective delivery of relief services, city officials said. Current practice among the Private Industry Councils is to assist only workers who are laid off by plants within their geographical jurisdictions.
The expected economic downturn requires dropping such artificial barriers, Farrell said. For example, he said, a worker laid off in Burbank who lives in South-Central Los Angeles should be able to get retraining from the Private Industry Council in Los Angeles.
William Bruce, jobs chief in the city’s Community Development Department, said the councils also plan to make the services they offer displaced workers uniform and to unite in lobbying in Washington to obtain more than $28 million in additional federal retraining funds.
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