L.A., city unions strike tentative deal to delay raises, avoid layoffs and furloughs
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has struck a tentative deal with civilian city employee unions to avoid layoffs and furloughs for the next six months, by postponing raises for those workers until the summer of 2022.
The Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which represents clerks, gardeners, mechanics, custodians and many other municipal employees, tentatively agreed to push back a 2% raise scheduled for this month and another 2% planned for June.
Garcetti confirmed the broad outlines of the deal, saying in a statement that he hopes to reach similar agreements with sworn employees at the city’s police and fire departments.
“The COVID-19 crisis has caused the most devastating economic downturn Los Angeles has ever faced, and we have asked our labor partners to help us save jobs and services by deferring their scheduled raises,” he said.
The agreement must be ratified by the coalition’s more than 18,000 members. If approved, it will push the cost of planned raises into the 2022-23 budget year, when city officials hope the region’s economy will have improved, union leaders said.
In exchange, the city will drop its plans for furloughs — one unpaid day off every two weeks — while promising not to lay off any coalition member during this fiscal year.
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The concessions are aimed at helping the city weather a financial crisis triggered last year by restrictions related to the coronavirus outbreak, which caused taxes and other forms of revenue to plummet.
Garcetti and the city’s bargaining committee have been negotiating similar agreements with other civilian city unions, including one that represents employees of City Atty. Mike Feuer, whose office had been facing as many as 143 layoffs.
Some at City Hall are hoping Tuesday’s announcement will place new pressure on the Police Protective League, the union that represents roughly 9,800 officers at the Los Angeles Police Department. That union has previously declined to meet with negotiators or offer financial concessions.
LAPD officers are scheduled to receive a 3.25% pay increase at the end of the month. Earlier this week, the department submitted a layoff list to the city’s budget team, identifying 355 officer positions that could be eliminated in the coming months.
The proposal would take LAPD sworn staffing below 9,400 and eliminate units specifically assigned to combat crime in Venice Beach, Hollywood’s tourist areas and neighborhoods that surround USC, according to reports submitted by the department.
If Garcetti and the City Council sign off on the cuts, the LAPD would move ahead with the dismantling of units focused on human trafficking, missing persons and white-collar crime, those reports said.
The Police Protective League has repeatedly ruled out the idea of concessions, noting that the City Council voted in July to cut $150 million from the LAPD budget. The move forced the department to slash overtime pay and reduce sworn staffing to levels not seen in more than decade.
Those cuts, the union’s board said in a statement, have left the LAPD with hundreds fewer officers to “stem the rise in gun violence” in the city.
“We understand the sacrifice other city workers are making because we have already sacrificed,” the board said.
Last month, police union officials accused council members of diverting a majority of those savings from the LAPD into a “slush fund” to pay for alley resurfacing, tree trimming, tree-stump removal and other nuts-and-bolts services. And on Tuesday, they warned that losing 350 more officers would make it even more difficult for the LAPD to respond to violent crime.
Councilman Mike Bonin, who represents Venice and other coastal neighborhoods, put the blame for that scenario on the union. As long as the union refuses to postpone its next two raises, the LAPD will end up dismantling patrol units for “some of the biggest, most crowded places in Los Angeles,” Bonin said.
“It’s pretty clear that the Los Angeles police union is a huge threat to public safety in Los Angeles,” he added. “Every other union has come to the table. The other [city] departments are not talking about layoffs, because their unions are talking about solutions to the crisis.”
LAPD Chief Michel Moore, appearing Tuesday before the Police Commission, said he fears the proposed layoffs will result in “very serious and crippling reductions in services.”
The city has had 19 homicides so far this year — more than double the amount at this point in 2020 — and is seeing a “substantial increase in shooting violence.” Last week, a 15-year-old boy was shot to death at a public park in Boyle Heights. On Monday, another 15-year-old boy was gunned down in Pacoima.
“Staffing reductions have impacted us, as far as our ability to provide for the safety of Angelenos,” Moore said. “I don’t believe it’s creating the violence. But it couldn’t come at a worse time.”
The city’s Executive Employee Relations Committee, which comprises Garcetti and four council members, has spent weeks trying to renegotiate its union contracts — part of a larger effort to eliminate a $675-million projected deficit.
Last month, budget officials proposed the elimination of 143 city attorney positions, 27 positions in the Bureau of Engineering and 45 positions in the Department of Animal Services, which operates animal shelters. Those reductions are no longer expected, since each agency has found other ways to cut costs, city officials said.
The agreement with the coalition, if ratified later this month, would also stave off the elimination of 273 civilian positions at the LAPD, officials said. Among those whose positions will be spared are 57 part-time security workers assigned to public libraries and other civic buildings.
Because of the deal announced Tuesday, those LAPD employees’ jobs will be saved. However, some sworn officers assigned to city buildings may see their positions eliminated.
Bob Schoonover, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 721, said the tentative agreement would shield vital city services while protecting working families.
“This is an unprecedented crisis,” said Schoonover, whose union belongs to the larger labor coalition. “And we know that furloughs and layoffs would result in a catastrophic impact on the households of L.A. city workers.”
Times staff writer Kevin Rector contributed to this report.
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