DWP Workers’ Pay Hike Divides City Hall, Other Employee Unions

Times Staff Writer

As one city employee union flooded Los Angeles City Hall with protesters demanding the same salary increases won by Department of Water and Power workers, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signaled to the department’s managers Tuesday that they also were unlikely to get the same terms.

More than 250 members of the Engineers and Architects Assn. packed the council chambers and spilled into the halls Tuesday, warning the council that it will see “further disruptions and noise” if they are not given the same contract approved in September for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, which represents more than 90% of DWP employees.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Dec. 17, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday December 17, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 4 inches; 143 words Type of Material: Correction
Union contracts -- Articles in the California section on Wednesday and Dec. 5 about a contract dispute at Los Angeles City Hall said a lucrative pay package awarded to members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, was negotiated by former Mayor James K. Hahn. Articles on Dec. 7, Nov. 23 and Aug. 3 described the contract as having been negotiated by Hahn’s administration. The contract was negotiated while Hahn was mayor, but the negotiations were conducted by the city’s administrative officer, who reports to the mayor and the City Council. The terms for the negotiations were set by the City Council and a city panel that includes the mayor and four council members. Hahn was chairman of that panel, but said Wednesday that he had voted to oppose the contract during the closed-door meeting at which the terms were set.

“We’re back because justice has still not been served for my members, your employees,” said Robert Aquino, business manager of the 8,000-member engineers’ union.


Aquino was cited by police officers Tuesday for creating a hazardous condition with the protest. The matter is being forwarded to the city attorney for a decision on whether to prosecute.

Aquino said a report by City Controller Laura Chick that found that the city had increased its reserve fund this year cast doubt on the city’s plea of poverty at the bargaining table. He also said that city tax revenue was higher than the city had originally estimated.

The IBEW contract, negotiated by then-Mayor James K. Hahn and approved in September by the council, guarantees raises of 19% over five years; salaries could increase 31% if inflation spikes.

In comparison, Aquino’s union has been offered 6.5% over three years.

Aquino has organized demonstrations at City Hall, at a downtown intersection and at Los Angeles International Airport. He also has called on the city to fire six employees who have refused to pay union dues for religious reasons.

Villaraigosa is chairman of the city’s Executive Employee Relations Committee, which met Tuesday with representatives of the bargaining union that is representing 280 DWP managers and offered to begin talks on a new contract.

Jerry Pfefferman, head of the Management Employees Assn., said he would like a contract similar to the one given to the IBEW.


The mayor and other city leaders signaled, however, that the managers probably would not get the same deal, Pfefferman said.

“The mayor said that was then, this is now,” Pfefferman said.

He warned the mayor that nearly 10% of his bargaining unit had petitioned to join the IBEW in hopes of receiving that union’s contract, because otherwise managers would see their salaries end up much closer to those of subordinates represented by IBEW.

“My message to the mayor was, if the managers feel short-changed there is a danger of the whole” bargaining “unit slipping into IBEW,” Pfefferman said.

Councilman Dennis Zine, a member of the committee, said he did not see any union, including the managers, getting the IBEW deal.

“The mayor is being fiscally responsible,” Zine said.