Job Action by Police Targets L.A. Tourism : Labor: If wage dispute is not settled soon, union says it will distribute to travel officials a videotape portraying the city as crime-ridden. Officers have gone 20 months without a contract.
Threatening to tarnish the city’s reputation as a tourist destination, the union for Los Angeles police officers said Tuesday that unless its contract dispute is settled soon it will distribute a videotape to travel and convention officials that shows Los Angeles to be a crime-ridden area.
The videotape will highlight the declining morale among LAPD officers, who have worked without a contract for 20 months. It will use riot footage and statistics indicating that crime is rampant, union officials said.
The threat by the Police Protective League comes in advance of this summer’s World Cup soccer competition, as well as a series of large national conventions.
“If you, the leaders of this city, cannot make us your No. 1 priority as you have been telling the public in your rhetoric, then we will clearly demonstrate that we can impact the very source of our dispute, the city treasury,” union President Danny Staggs told the council.
The threat is part of a series of job actions the union has initiated in recent months to try to force the city to grant the first pay raise for officers since July, 1991. The union represents 7,500 officers, ranked lieutenant and below.
Last fall, police officers picketed outside City Hall and later called a “blue flu” in which hundreds of rank-and-file officers called in sick to protest the stalled contract talks. The sickout lasted a single day before a judge ordered the officers back to work.
In the latest action, Staggs insisted that the union is not bluffing, saying it has begun preparing the videotape and an accompanying brochure for release to convention planners, tourist agencies, trade publications and consulates located in Los Angeles. Staggs did not indicate to the council when the videotapes might go out.
In City Hall, some of those sympathetic to the officers’ cause said they understand the union’s frustration and hope an agreement will be reached before the videotape is distributed.
“For years now they’ve put their neck on the line,” said Councilman Joel Wachs, who is pushing for a pay raise for officers. “They go out there and work their tails off and they don’t get anything. They’re frustrated and I understand their frustration.”
But others criticized the union’s tactic.
“Serious negotiating belongs at the bargaining table, not in tactics such as this,” Mayor Richard Riordan said in a statement. “I hope that, upon reflection, the union will reconsider this tactic.”
Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky compared the union’s threat to a scene from the movie “Blazing Saddles.”
“They are basically holding a gun to their own head and to the city’s head and saying, ‘If you don’t do what we want, we’ll pull the trigger,’ ” Yaroslavsky said. “In the end who gets hurt by that?”
The next negotiating session is set for Thursday. The police union is insisting on a salary increase comparable to the 9% raise over four years that workers at the Department of Water and Power received last fall after going on strike. City officials contend that the budget situation is too grim for an immediate raise.
The tactic the police union is employing is not without precedent.
In 1992, the Los Angeles Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union Local 11 mailed out 2,500 copies of a video called “City on the Edge” that contrasted positive images of Los Angeles--wide beaches, glitzy shops and luxurious hotels--with scenes of poverty, violence and desperation.
Shortly after the controversial tape was distributed, the union settled its contract with hotel owners.