For Price, charges could threaten political career as ally of labor, low-wage workers

A man speaks into a microphone.
Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price presides over the council meeting at City Hall on June 13.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
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In April, Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price rallied with workers on the steps of City Hall to demand higher pay for hotel workers and janitors who clean Los Angeles International Airport.

“The living wage movement is a social justice movement,” Price declared alongside union members in purple shirts, before introducing a proposal to dramatically boost wages for workers who cater to tourists.

The moment distilled the causes on which Price has built his reputation in his decade on the City Council: his advocacy for low-wage earners and close ties to organized labor.


Price’s South L.A. council district includes some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the city, and the politician has led efforts to boost the earnings or job opportunities of sidewalk vendors, hotel workers, formerly incarcerated people and others.

First elected in 2013 to represent District 9, Price is now a veteran of the 15-member City Council. He’s outlasted several colleagues who have shared the horseshoe of seats assigned to City Council members, some of whom have left in recent years not only because of election loss but also in scandal-caused resignation or indictment.

Now, Price’s reputation is on the line following criminal charges of perjury, conflict of interest and embezzlement, filed Tuesday by the county district attorney’s office. The councilman was accused of having a financial interest in development projects that he voted on, and improperly receiving medical benefits from the city for his now-wife while he was still married to another woman.

“Curren Price is a long-standing public servant who has given his life to the city of Los Angeles,” said Price spokesperson Angelina Valencia, who added that their office had not seen the charges as of Tuesday afternoon. “He looks forward to defending himself once he’s had an opportunity to address these charges.”

The criminal charges immediately shook up his positions at City Hall. Price had chaired two powerful council committees — the Economic and Community Development Committee and the Ad Hoc Committee on the 2028 Olympics and Paralympic Games. He announced Tuesday that he was stepping down from all committee assignments and as president pro tempore.


His district represents several South L.A. neighborhoods and the area around downtown’s convention center.

USC and Exposition Park are also in his district, areas that have seen investments such as BMO Stadium and the forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

District 9’s population is 78% Latino and 13% Black, yet voters in the district have elected a Black representative to the City Council since the early 1960s. Price has twice won reelection, backed by a broad coalition that includes his colleagues on the City Council and community leaders.

“He’s well aware — probably more than ever before — of the need for a coalition to maintain his political seat,” said Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at Cal State L.A.

As Latinos have become a “sizable majority” of his district, Regalado said, Price “would have been foolish not to fully recognize what’s at stake and come to grips with it,” including by hiring a diverse staff.

The Los Angeles political world is no stranger to scandal. In fact, there have been so many it can be hard to keep them straight.

June 13, 2023

He’s also forged relationships with younger progressive members of the City Council who are also close with organized labor.


After the audio leak of a tape in October that showed City Council President Nury Martinez making racist remarks, the council moved to make City Councilman Paul Krekorian president of the council. At one point, it appeared that Price might seek the position. Instead, he was elected president pro tempore.

In a moving speech delivered on the council floor in late October after his colleagues voted him in, Price lauded his own district as a “microcosm” of the city’s diverse population. He also spoke about using his life experiences to bring the city together following widespread outrage over his colleagues’ ugly remarks.

“As a 71-year-old Black man, I’ve had my fair share of experience fighting against adversity,” said Price. “From living through a time of segregation to the social justice revolution.”

Price grew up in South Los Angeles, attended high school in Inglewood before going to Stanford University and University of Santa Clara, School of Law.

He spent several years on the Inglewood City Council and represented much of the 9th District while serving in the state Senate. He also served on the state Assembly.

He easily defeated challenger Dulce Vasquez in the primary election last year for his third and final term. He called the race a referendum on his “progressive, positive, inclusive leadership.”


On the council, he’s supported a citywide $15 minimum wage, helped legalize street vending and pushed for a pilot program that gave money, no strings attached, to struggling families.

He also put forward a “hero pay” program for grocery store employees who worked during the pandemic, a controversial move that prompted one grocery chain to close stores.

And he led a campaign to change employment rules so formerly incarcerated individuals can more easily find work.

Price “has certainly been a champion for working class Angelenos,” said Alberto Retana, president and chief executive of Community Coalition, a nonprofit based in South L.A. “His support of wages, his support of reinvesting police dollars, partnering with immigrant rights organizations — he’s certainly been an ally to organizations on the ground.”

In April, he joined members of Unite Here Local 11, Service Employees International Union-United Service Workers West and Yvonne Wheeler, president of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, to unveil a plan to boost the minimum wages of workers at larger hotels and some LAX workers to $30 an hour by 2028.

L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price was charged with embezzlement, perjury and conflict of interest on Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

June 13, 2023

Price argues the forthcoming 2028 Summer Olympics will help pump money into the economy and low-wage workers should benefit. The proposal is opposed by business groups.


Labor groups have stood by Price, who regularly champions their causes. In the June 2022 city council race, unions spent more than $500,000 in support of Price’s campaign.

Price has also faced scrutiny over his personal and professional decisions: His marriage to Del Richardson Price became an issue during his reelection in 2017 after CityWatch reported that Price hadn’t finalized his divorce from his first wife. A spokesperson told the Times that year Price thought he and Richardson were legally married at the time.

In 2019, The Times reported that Price had repeatedly cast votes that affected housing developers and other firms listed as clients of his wife’s consulting company. Many of the votes identified by The Times were related to housing developments:

The Times reported that Price voted on decisions involving at least 10 companies in the same years they were listed as providing at least $10,000 in income to Del Richardson & Associates.

Price also faced criticism for backing huge digital billboards on Washington Boulevard. Companies tied to the developer then funded a political committee working to reelect Price.

Community leader Jorge Nuño, who lives in Historic South-Central and ran unsuccessfully against Price six years ago, said that despite the headlines that Price has grabbed for his work on the minimum wage and other issues, the district needs better leadership.


“There are certain talking points that sound good, but are we increasing home ownership? Is our homelessness decreasing?” said Nuño. “I look at the data. Our community continues to struggle.”

He called the charges against Price “just disheartening.”

“We just hope that we get better representation that will fight for the people,” he said.

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