Yes, the city unions agreed to small concessions that have helped reduce the deficit from outlandish to just plain outsized. But the givebacks were largely illusory in that City Hall earlier approved pay raises of 25 percent over five years - not to mention a provision requiring that any layoffs be accompanied by pay raises for remaining city employees. And now we're learning from the LAT that independent groups tied to organized labor are spending heavily in this election. Much of the money is from police officers and DWP workers and it's going to Wendy Greuel, along with several City Council candidates. The payouts point to the near impossibility of L.A. being able to reduce pension and health care benefits to levels at which they don't eat into the city budget - and with it staff and services. Eventually, it will mean fewer cops on the street, lengthier waits for emergency medical care, and minimal street repair. It won't happen all at once - incrementalism is the union's essential strategy. From the Times:
Organized labor already wields considerable influence at City Hall, pressing the mayor and lawmakers to support employee raises and approve construction projects that create union jobs. The large number of open council seats, combined with laws that let special interests spend unlimited amounts, could leave unions with "an even stronger grip," said Jaime Regalado, emeritus professor of political science at Cal State L.A. "L.A. is one of the few places in the country where labor plays such a dominant role, not only in selecting candidates to run, but in spending an amount of money that far outdistances whatever groups or individuals are second or third," he added.
By 2 p.m. Tuesday, roughly $700,000 had been spent by independent groups on the three most competitive council contests, with two-thirds coming from labor groups. The biggest beneficiaries of that money are Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) on the Eastside; former City Commissioner John Choi in an Echo Park-to-Hollywood district; and state Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) in South Los Angeles. Cedillo, Choi and Price are hoping to replace termed-out council members Ed Reyes, Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry -- all of whom antagonized organized labor last year by voting to roll back pension benefits for newly hired city employees. Maria Elena Durazo, who heads the 600,000-member Los Angeles County Federation of Labor -- one of the big independent campaign donors -- warned council members last year that the benefits rollback would "come back and haunt" them.