national opinion

Monday Column
Carol Platt Liebau

[go to Liebau index]

Latest Column:
Stopping the Meltdown
What Beltway Republicans Need To Do

Subscribe to CRO Alerts
Sign up for a weekly notice of CRO content updates.

Jon Fleischman’s
The premier source for
California political news

Michael Ramirez

editorial cartoon

Do your part to do right by our troops.
They did the right thing for you.
Donate Today

CRO Talk Radio
Contributor Sites
Laura Ingraham

Hugh Hewitt
Eric Hogue
Sharon Hughes
Frank Pastore
[Radio Home]
















Could This Be Antonio's Finest Hour?
The Mayor and DWP union...

[by Jon Coupal] 8/17/05

Events are unfolding in the city of Los Angeles that could have repercussions throughout the state. Employees of the city-owned Los Angeles Department of Water and Power are threatening a strike unless Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council approve a new contract that preserves their status as the city's highest paid workers. Their compensation also exceeds that provided by three out of four of the other major utilities in the state.

Some at City Hall, fearing a debilitating strike and threats of legal action, will suggest that the city cave in to the DWP employee union's demands and move on. In fact, the mayor, who has expressed concern about the pay package that guarantees 16.5% and as much as 30% over 5 years, depending on inflation, can claim that the deal was not negotiated on his watch. He could sit on his hands, blame others, and pledge to negotiate a better deal "next time."

Jon Coupal

Jon Coupal is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -- California's largest taxpayer organization with offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. [go to website] [go to Coupal index]

But these deals do not exist in a vacuum. Twelve years ago, immediately after Richard Riordan took office, DWP employees were able to convince him to support an 11% pay raise. After this was confirmed, Riordan discovered that there were other unions he must deal with. Representatives of public safety workers argued that their members' contributions to the city were as important as those of DWP employees. These workers, too, were awarded an 11% raise.

The lesson is not lost on city workers represented by Service Employees International Union. The union has expressed its outrage at the disparity between what DWP workers are receiving and other workers. It is probably unnecessary to add that the SEIU would withdraw any opposition to the DWP deal, if the city were willing to provide its members with the same pay package.

If the mayor starts down this road, he will be repeating the mistakes of his immediate predecessor, Jim Hahn. Under the Hahn administration, more than 90 cents of each new dollar coming into the city ended up as pay and benefit increases for existing city employees. As a result, there was nothing left to meet Hahn's campaign pledge to hire new police officers. His answer was a desperate effort to increase the sales tax burden on Los Angeles residents, already among the highest taxed in the state.

Perhaps Villaraigosa should look elsewhere for inspiration.

Just after Ronald Reagan took office he faced a showdown with the air traffic controllers' union. If the government did not immediately accede to the workers' demands, they would go on strike and cripple the nation's vital air transportation network. Reagan shocked observers when he summarily fired the air traffic controllers and began an expedited program to train their replacements.

This bold move by the president set the tone for the rest of his administration. Adversaries understood that they were dealing with a leader who would not be intimidated, and were more anxious to cut deals than fight. It is said that even the Soviets were highly impressed. The president had demonstrated strength and they knew they would have to negotiate with a man of conviction and perseverance. He was able to set the agenda. This, no doubt, helped bring about the era of "Glasnost" which opened the door to peaceful relations between our nations.

If Villaraigosa wants to set the agenda in Los Angeles, he must act forcefully to confront this first threat to his governance. The unions cannot be allowed to set the agenda, but must be enrolled as partners. To do this, the mayor may not have to fire anyone, but he had better show strength or the city's finances will continue to circle toward the drain.

If the mayor decides to take on this fight, he can take some comfort from the experience of another president. It is said that Richard Nixon was able to open up relations with China because his anti-communist reputation shielded him from the criticism that a more dovish president would have endured.

Villaraigosa has the bona fides with the working class for his advocacy of higher wages. His pro-union background -- he was a union organizer -- provides him with credibility with city workers that should allow him to cut a deal that treats workers fairly while respecting the city's taxpayers who will pay for the agreement.

Taxpayers throughout the state are watching to see if the mayor can establish a new standard for negotiating with government employees. CRO

Jon Coupal is an attorney and President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

copyright 2005 Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association



Blue Collar -  120x90
120x90 Jan 06 Brand
Free Trial Static 02
ActionGear 120*60
Free Trial Static 01
Applicable copyrights indicated. All other material copyright 2003-2005