If L.A.'s unions feel they have a champion in the form of a single politician, that person is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Under the Mutual Gains process established by the mayor and organized labor, representatives for nearly 22,000 unionized city employees have been ironing out a plan with the mayor's office to preserve as many jobs as possible during the recession. The union side is embodied by an umbrella group called the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, and includes members of such powerhouse unions as AFSCME, SEIU and the Teamsters. One solution that has proved particularly attractive to these unions has been an early retirement option.
Imagine the chagrin of union reps when, they claim, they heard a news reporter say that Villaraigosa has unilaterally yanked that option off the table.
"After twelve months," read a coalition press statement, "of working collaboratively on a plan to preserve jobs, critical City services, and the long term financial solvency of the nation's second largest municipality, we were shocked today to learn from the news media that Mayor Villaraigosa had urged members of the City Council behind closed doors to reject the Early Retirement Incentive Program funded largely by City workers."
The removal of the early retirement option could mean that the city has
calculated such a strategy to be too costly to be viable; it also
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suggests that deep job cuts are is now inevitable. With prospects
for the passage of revenue-raising measures on the state ballot dim,
cities such as Los Angeles may be preparing for worst-case scenarios -- not early retirement parties.
A request for a response to the unions' claim has not yet been answered by the mayor's office.