City Workers Fired Up Over Furloughs in Los Angeles

More than 200 Los Angeles public employees rallied at City Hall and then filed into city council chambers to testify against a new round of furloughs. Photo: Slobodan Dimitrov.

Public workers descended on Los Angeles City Hall January 12 to agitate against more furloughs. City workers are already taking many Fridays off without pay as the city struggles to balance its budget. They feared a new round of furloughs that would have closed departments each Friday or every other Friday.

The fired-up included parks workers, firefighters, clerical workers, non-teaching school staff, probation officers, and many others. Their unions were AFSCME, Service Employees, Teamsters, Laborers, Operating Engineers, Machinists, building trades, and Firefighters. The Department of Recreation and Parks has been gutted, with some rec centers partially staffed by volunteers.

More than 300 workers first rallied in the City Hall Rotunda and then filed into city council chambers to testify.

Chief Accounting Officer Miguel Santana said that unless city council leased out nine city-owned parking garages to private entities, to generate revenue, furloughs would increase to one day a week until the end of the fiscal year June 30.

The furloughs could also affect workers’ retirement, as fewer hours worked now may mean more years needed before workers can retire.



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Union speaker after speaker implored the council to lease the garages, which it voted to do.


Nonetheless, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told the press he would move ahead with more layoffs. “Unless we get the kinds of concessions that we need from our partners in labor,” he said, “we’re going to have to move ahead, because we will balance this budget.”

For days running up to the hearing, members of AFSCME Local 3090 and other members of the Coalition of L.A. City Unions emailed and called the city council. The coalition includes six unions representing 22,000 city employees.

The coalition continues to show the city where money can be found other than trying to balance the budget on the backs of its workers. The coalition pointed out the city’s inefficiency in collecting fees and taxes owed, leading the council to create a Commission on Revenue Efficiency last spring.

By its own accounting, 76.6 percent of the city’s $541.1 million owed for business fees, parking tickets, ambulance fees, parking taxes, and the like are more than 120 days past due, with 42.5 percent more than two years past due—and now mostly uncollectable.

A version of this article appeared in Labor Notes #383, February 2011. Don't miss an issue, subscribe today.