The salary deal negotiated by Bass would give L.A. city workers seven raises by July 2028

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

The salary deal negotiated by Bass would give L.A. city workers seven raises by July 2028

LA Politics, Homepage News

David Zahniser

January 12, 2024

Thousands of them

Los Angeles

city ​​workers are on track to receive a package of pay increases that would exceed 24%

the next

five years, an agreement similar to the one that contributed to one of the city’s most consequential budget crises more than a decade ago.

The new wage proposal, negotiated by Mayor Karen Bass last month, would allow for seven cost-of-living increases between April


and July 2028 to workers represented by the Coalition of LA City Unions, according to summaries distributed by union leaders.

The proposal, which requires a union approval vote and City Council approval, would also give employees the option to be paid out 100% of their unused sick time when they retire, instead of 50%. And it would raise the minimum wage for coalition workers, many of whom are part-time, to $25 an hour by 2026, union officials said.

“The feedback I’ve gotten from our members is that they will enthusiastically vote ‘yes’ on this because it’s the best deal city workers have ever gotten,” said David Green, president of Service Employees International Union Local 721. of the coalition’s six unions.

The terms of the salary proposal bear some similarity to a government employee contract negotiated by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in 2007, which he later described as a mistake. That agreement, which was also reached with the coalition, resulted in salary increases of almost 25 percent over a period of five years.

The 2007 coalition agreement was finalized shortly before the onset of the Great Recession, causing a slowdown in tax revenues and rapid growth in public employee pension costs.

an increase partly caused by investment losses in city pension funds


coalition contract from the city

Increased salary obligations have expanded salary obligations even further

city ​​is huge

budget deficit.

During several tumultuous years, city leaders

imposed leave and

thousands of positions in the city, some of which have been eliminated through layoffs.

She while



concessions from the coalition, such as the postponement of some wage increases and larger contributions to employee health care.

Before leaving office in 2013, Villaraigosa expressed regret over his support for the salary deal, saying it had been the biggest mistake of his eight-year rule.

Villaraigosa declined comment when contacted by The Times.

Bass said in an interview the financial circumstances


opposite the city are different from those that existed during Villaraigosa’s tenure.

If the city experiences a major economic downturn, it will have a larger reserve fund to cushion the blow, Bass said. At the same time, urban workers are facing much higher inflation than before

during the Great Recession of the Villaraigosa era, a situation that

justifies cost-of-living increases that could deter workers from seeking work elsewhere, she said.

“We have a good quality workforce now. We want to maintain that workforce,” she said.

Jack Humphreville, a volunteer with the city’s Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, was more skeptical, warning that Bass and the council are repeating the mistakes of the past. To pay for upcoming wage increases, the city will almost certainly have to reduce the size of its workforce, depriving the public of necessary city services, he said.

“You want [city workers] to be paid well. But you also just want to make sure you get your money’s worth, and I don’t think that’s the case,” he said.

The city council will meet behind closed doors on Friday to get an update on the contract talks.

City Manager Matt Szabo, who worked for Villaraigosa in 2007 and is now the city’s top budget analyst, said he doesn’t yet have an exact figure for the cost of the new coalition contract because parts of it are still being negotiated. But he confirmed that the cost of the planned salary increases, combined with changes to health care benefits, would likely exceed $100 million in the first full fiscal year of the agreement.

Asked whether the budget can absorb the proposed increases, Szabo said the city would take “all necessary measures” to ensure the budget is balanced and “recession-proof.”

Councilman Bob Blumenfield, head of the council’s powerful budget committee, said he expects city leaders will have to eliminate some vacant city positions to help cover the costs of the coalition agreement. “You can’t make the numbers work, pay people more and have the same number of positions. That’s just math,” he said. “But the extent of it all, we’ll find out.”

Blumenfield said

he expects

The upcoming contract will force city leaders to refocus on the city’s “core responsibilities.”

The coalition contract is being finalized amid a major labor shortage at City Hall, with 1


of every 6


vacant positions last case, according to a city comptroller’s analysis. Some offices, such as the Bureau of Street Services and the Recreation and Parks Department,

to have

had vacancies of more than 20% last fall, the analysis said.

Bass is expected to announce her next budget proposal in April. That spending plan will also have to make room for new pay increases and bonuses approved last year for about 9,000 officers represented by the Los Angeles Police Protective League. That contract is expected to add $400 million to the city’s annual budget by 2027 — a fact that drew criticism from three of the council’s 15 members.

The Coalition of LA City Unions represents 24,000 full- and part-time city workers, including clerks, mechanics, custodians, gardeners and a range of other non-sworn city positions. About 8,000 of those work part-time, with about a third of part-timers working in a given year, Szabo said.

Green, the SEIU president, said his union remains committed to ensuring vacant positions at City Hall are filled. And he rejected the idea that the proposed salary deal would cause budget problems, saying “the city can afford it.”

The city’s budget experts have already expressed support for the contract terms, Green said.

“That tells me this is a financially viable deal,” he said.

The five-year salary proposal comes just months after the SEIU staged a one-day strike at City Hall. In recent months, the union had set the tone for a second time.

That confrontation never took place. Instead, Bass agreed to participate in “intensive negotiations,” negotiating with coalition leaders until 3 a.m. last month at the Bonaventure Hotel, Green said.

If approved by union members and the council, the new salary agreement would remain in effect well beyond the next mayoral election in 2026. Perhaps more importantly, it would expire in December 2028, after Los Angeles hosts the Olympics that year. .

Bass said the Olympics


played no role in the decision to negotiate a five-year contract. At the same time, she said the timing would provide some benefit.

“It would be very difficult to participate in labor negotiations when we are hosting more leaders from around the world than ever before, and when the spotlight of the world is on LA,” she said. “But that wasn’t a factor.”


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