Work Force Report : Entertainment Paces Job and Wage Growth in the Valley


Labor Day has long been observed with exceptional fervor in the San Fernando Valley. Parades marked the holiday, and underscored the influence of organized labor in a region top-heavy with manufacturing and aerospace industries.

The same was true throughout the state: From the 1950s on, California had a higher percentage of unionized workers than the nation as a whole, said UCLA labor relations professor Daniel J.B. Mitchell.

But with the aerospace downturn, change was sharp and sudden. Today, unions struggle in California and elsewhere in the country. Nationally, about 15.5% of the work force is unionized, down from 20% 10 years ago, and the same is true in Los Angeles County. The L.A. County Federation of Labor now claims just 600,000 workers in its 400 affiliated unions, down from 750,000 five years ago, said senior representative Regina Render.


And the nature of the work force has changed, with a dramatic shift toward service jobs, and away from manufacturing ones. Although the Valley’s manufacturing base is still vast, the entertainment industry is the clear up-and-comer in terms of job creation these days.

Overall, though, the statistics show a steep drop in the number of wage and salary jobs in the county in recent years.

Mitchell, the UCLA professor, said despite changes, it’s too soon to write off organized labor. He points to the success of certain public-sector unions, revitalized challenges to old union leadership, and new attempts by unions to reach out to minority groups such as Latinos. “At least now I can point to pluses,” for organized labor, he said. “It used to be only minuses.”

* L.A. County Unemployment, (as of July, 1995): 8.4%


Totals for all industries

1975: 3.03 mill.

1989: 4.11 mill.

1995: 3.71 million


For selected L.A. County industries in 1995 with percentage change from 1989

Movie Production: $1,146 (+78.5%)

Aircraft & Parts Manufacturing: $827 (+27.8%)

Construction: $546 (-24.3%)

Electronic Equipment: $538 (+30.0%)

Retail Trade: $315 (+29.6%)

Apparel and Other Textile Products: $294 (+17.6%)


Total Valley work force: 632,599 (as of 1993)


No. employees: 51,924

% change from 1987: up 61%

% Valley workforce: 8%


Description: wholesale and retail trade

No. employees: 126,926

% change from 1987: down 2%

% Valley workforce: 20%


Description: general & high-tech

No. employees: 114,179

% change from 1987: down 28%

% Valley workforce: 18%


No. employees: 54,323

% change from 1987: down 12%

% Valley workforce: 9%


Description: incl. business & info. services

No. employees: 136,680

% change from 1987: up 20%

% Valley workforce: 22%


Description: hospitality industries

No. employees: 44,656

% change from 1987: up 2%

% Valley workforce: 7%


No. employees: 25,123

% change from 1987: down 14%

% Valley workforce: 4%


Description: agriculture, transportation, education, etc.

No. employees: 78,788

% change from 1987: N/A

% Valley workforce: 12%


Union membership in the Valley has been hard hit by the decline in manufacturing jobs. But some service and professional unions are holding their own. Here’s a rundown of some prominent unions in the Valley:

International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 725

Once the Valley’s biggest union, the machinist’s group boasted about 40,000 members in the 1940s. Today, the number continues to dwindle due to the aerospace downturn.

Base: Burbank; workers in aerospace plants in Palmdale, Pacoima, Fullerton, Glendale and Valencia


Current membership: 2,300

United Auto Workers Local 1799

The UAW locally has also fallen on hard times with the manufacturing decline. Today, retired members outnumber active ones by more than three to one. Local UAW membership hit its peak at about 4,000 during the Korean War.

Base: North Hollywood; workers in North Hollywood and Sylmar

Current active membership: 300

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 36

This union is rapidly becoming the largest in the AFL-CIO because public sector jobs have grown while industrial jobs have been cut. But for the local council, this is a painful time. Many members work for cash-strapped L.A. and Orange counties. They face layoffs, although total council membership has increased by about 3,500 in recent years due to added government employees such as 911 operators.

Base: Los Angeles; members all over Southern California

Current membership: 20,000

United Food Commercial Workers Union Local 770

UFCW, one of the largest unions in L.A., represents grocery store employees. The union is holding its own, largely through mergers with other locals. About 60% of its membership works in stores in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys. But its hold on the industry is slipping: 85% of grocery chains locally are unionized now, down from 90% five years ago.

Base: Los Angeles, members throughout Los Angeles County

Current membership: 30,000

Source: California Employment Development Department, Valley Economic Development Center; SRI International

Researched by JILL LEOVY