L.A. County Labor Fed Backs Wendy Greuel, Asks Eric Garcetti To Lay Off Anti-Union Remarks

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Tue, Mar 19, 2013 at 12:05 PM
click to enlarge Maria Elena Durazo, head of L.A. County Fed
  • Maria Elena Durazo, head of L.A. County Fed

The L.A. County Federation of Labor today officially threw its support behind Controller Wendy Greuel in the race for L.A. mayor. The Fed's endorsement -- a foregone conclusion since last week's political committee vote -- should provide Greuel a strong get-out-the-vote operation, which could be helpful in a low-turnout election.

"We are gonna put the troops out there," said Ada Briceno, secretary-treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 11. "We are gonna knock on endless doors from Boyle Heights to San Pedro."

At the same time, Maria Elena Durazo, the executive secretary treasury of the County Federation, has asked Greuel's rival, Councilman Eric Garcetti, to pledge not to attack labor during the runoff campaign.

Durazo made the request at last week's contentious meeting of the Fed's Council on Political Education. According to two sources who were in the room, Durazo asked both Greuel and Garcetti to refrain from anti-union remarks for the remainder of the campaign. Both agreed.

Working Californians, a committee led by IBEW Local 18, spent $2 million backing Greuel during the primary and attacking her three main opponents. IBEW Local 18 represents 90% of the employees at the Department of Water and Power.

In response, Garcetti's campaign blasted IBEW Local 18, saying at a press conference outside the DWP headquarters that the union was funneling ratepayers' money into political attacks. Garcetti's campaign has also blasted "special interests that are pouring millions of dollars into this election." In his election night address, Garcetti alleged that Greuel's campaign was "bought and paid for by the power brokers at the DWP union."

That sort of rhetoric appears to have alarmed Durazo, prompting her to ask that Garcetti lay off the anti-union attacks. (The Fed, of course, has no intention of laying off Garcetti. At this morning's press conference, Briceno alleged that "Mr. Garcetti said he was gonna do something he ended up not doing" -- an apparent reference to his vote for a pension rollback.)

For his part, Garcetti kept up his attacks during a press conference on Monday. Accepting the endorsement of Councilman Paul Krekorian, Garcetti praised Krekorian as someone who was "willing to stand up to the power brokers."

"We've got a DWP union aligned against us," Garcetti continued, "but we've got the powerful voice of the people who say this election is not for sale."

Asked if such rhetoric contradicted his commitment to Durazo not to attack labor, Garcetti said he had promised only to refrain from "demonizing" labor.

"Nobody demonized anybody from our end," Garcetti said. "We've pointed out the truth."

The sources in last week's meeting also said that Greuel sealed the Federation endorsement when the representative from United Teachers Los Angeles got up to speak. UTLA endorsed Garcetti by an overwhelming margin in January. But Gregg Solkovits, a UTLA vice president, said that Garcetti had immediately backtracked after receiving UTLA's support, coming out in favor of the parent trigger law and other aspects of the education reform agenda.

Solkovits told the union audience that he would vote for Garcetti because his union had instructed him to, but that he wanted the rest of the Federation to be aware of Garcetti's reversal. According to the sources in the room, that remark convinced a few wavering committee members that Greuel would be the more reliable pick, and helped her reach the two-thirds margin needed to win the endorsement.

Garcetti's campaign declined to comment on Solkovits' remarks. In a statement, UTLA spokesman Suzanne Spurgeon said that "UTLA continues to support Eric Garcetti."

Update, 3 p.m.: The L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce has also endorsed Greuel. But it sounds like they're becoming a bit concerned with some of the pro-labor remarks she's been making lately. (E.g. "I'm gonna stand with labor, not stand up to labor.") 

In an interview this afternoon, Gary Toebben, the Chamber president, said he would like to speak with Greuel within the next week "to clarify for the business community what she means by some of the statements she has been quoted as making."

Among the Chamber's concerns are Greuel's remarks about reopening negotiations over city employee pensions. The Chamber supported the City Council's decision last fall to roll back pensions for new employees, but Greuel has said that the council erred by failing to bargain the issue with city unions. She recently told the L.A. Times she would like to reopen those discussions with labor "to make sure we get that pension reform that they agree with."

Toebben also expressed frustration about the absence of a detailed plan from either campaign to address the city's budget problems.

"We have not heard very many good suggestions about how the next mayor would lead the charge and eliminate that deficit," Toebben said.

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