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L.A. council backs a pay cut for many city workers, blocks request to target LAPD raises

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin
Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin cast the lone vote against furloughs, arguing that they would force LAPD officers off patrol and into desk duties.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to seek furloughs for more than 15,000 city workers, despite warnings that the move would harm critical city services and push police officers out of patrol cars and into desk duties.

Council members approved a declaration of fiscal emergency, which helps clear the way for many civilian city employees to receive one unpaid day off every two weeks — a 10% pay cut. Councilman Mike Bonin cast the lone vote against the furloughs, saying they would force LAPD officers to pick up some of the work of their furloughed co-workers, reducing the number of neighborhood patrols and slowing police response times.

Bonin asked his colleagues to first instruct the city’s negotiators to start the process of meeting with the Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers, and present a proposal for delaying their scheduled raises and bonuses. That effort should begin before the furloughs go into effect, he said.

“There are some people who want more policing. There are some people who want less policing,” Bonin said. “But I don’t know that there’s anybody who wants us to be paying more to the LAPD for less policing.”

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The council rejected that proposal on a 9 to 3 vote after the city’s top budget official said negotiators are seeking savings from every employee union, including the league.

“We’re going to need to talk to all of our labor partners — civilian and sworn — and we have already started those discussions about how to solve the gap,” City Administrative Officer Richard Llewellyn told the council.

Councilmen Herb Wesson and Marqueece Harris-Dawson supported Bonin’s push to ask the police union to defer its new raises and bonuses, which are part of a three-year contract that’s expected to add $123 million to this year’s budget. But both also voted in favor of the furlough program, which will not apply to police officers, firefighters, nurses and librarians, among others.

LAPD union officials have previously said they cannot be forced to give up their raises and have no intention of doing so. On Wednesday, the league criticized Bonin for singling them out, noting that the council already cut the LAPD by $150 million in July, taking the department down to 9,757 officers — its lowest level since 2008.

In a statement, the union’s board pointed out Bonin voted last year to approve the raises.

“He’s having a tough time keeping track of all his flip-flops when it comes to public safety,” the union board said. “He voted to pay a competitive wage to police officers to recruit and retain them, and now wants to cut their pay to help his political ambitions.”

The debate over spending comes as the city faces its worst financial crisis since the last recession. Shutdowns following the outbreak of COVID-19 have left the city with additional costs and lower-than-expected tax revenue. Added to those pressures are a series of more expensive employee salary agreements.

Under the contract with the league, rank-and-file officers are on track to receive a combined 4.8% increase over the current fiscal year, which began July 1. The first of the union’s two raises — 1.5% — went into effect July 5. Another 3.25% is due in January.

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On Wednesday, the council agreed to offer eligible workers up to $80,000 to retire, an effort expected to save $13 million. Meanwhile, LAPD officers are not alone in receiving raises during the ongoing budget crunch.

The city’s firefighter union received a 4.75% pay increase on July 5 and is poised to receive another 3% next summer, according to a city memo. The Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which represents a half-dozen civilian city employee groups, is slated to receive a 2% raise in January and another 2% in June.

Bonin said he is not seeking to have either the coalition or the firefighters union postpone or give up their raises. The LAPD is the “big kahuna,” he said, since it consumes more than half the city’s unrestricted funds.

“I wouldn’t support asking for concessions from the firefighters in Los Angeles,” he said. “Right now, they are the front lines of our battle against climate change and we have had a ... history in Los Angeles of decimating the Fire Department.”

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Bob Schoonover, president of Service Employees International Union Local 721, made clear his union intends to keep fighting the pay cuts.

“We know the furloughs are illegal under our labor contracts and we will vigorously fight to defend our front-line heroes,” he said in a statement.


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