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Is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Leading A Labor Union Backlash?

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Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 8:05 AM

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This depressing (or at least recessing) economy has inspired many local and state governments to reconsider the deals they struck with unions representing public workers. In good times, raises, health care and pension benefits were sweet. Now everyone has to watch their wallets.

The New York Times over the weekend noted a backlash among some leaders who were former union supporters, and it mentions Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's recent demand for union concessions as an example of a changing tide when it comes to union support.

Mayor V. has long been backed by city unions, but the spring budget deficit meant that City Hall had no choice but to ask for a little give back after labor got the most of City Hall, including a hiring spree and expanding pensions.

"In Los Angeles, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a former teachers' union organizer, is battling once-friendly unions, demanding $100 million in concessions," the Times states.

Of course, one could question the sincerity of just about any announcement the mayor makes these days. While he has indeed called on unions to make sacrifices recently, he very well knew that poison pills were built into their contracts that would severely limit what the city could demand.

And that's the same mayor who essentially lied to the public, spinning a massive Department of Water and Power rate hike, which would have provided cash for hundreds of new jobs for his union pals and helped to put a Band-Aid over the city's budget deficit, as a green initiative.

Still, standing up to unions is the cool thing for politicians to do these days, according to the Times:

Gary N. Chaison, a professor and labor expert at Clark University, said some Democratic officials now see it as a "badge of honor" to take on the unions."They see it as a way to show their independence," he said.

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