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Union: More pension 'reform' out of the question at LA City Hall

At City Hall, there's a fight brewing over pension reform. The mayor and city council members agree that retirement plans need to change, but labor leaders say they are done making concessions.
At City Hall, there's a fight brewing over pension reform. The mayor and city council members agree that retirement plans need to change, but labor leaders say they are done making concessions. Alice Walton/KPCC

The president of the Los Angeles City Council is hoping for “peace, not war” in the ongoing retirement talks with city employees, but one union said on Tuesday that it's done talking about pension reform.

City council members met behind closed doors today to discuss moving forward with plans to reduce pension costs. It was just a week ago that former mayor Richard Riordan and a coalition of business leaders took to City Hall to demand reform that includes:

  • Giving voters the power to change employees’ benefits
  • Capping salaries when pension costs get too expensive relative to pay
  • Creating a new pension tier for new employees

Following the closed session discussion, the city’s top budget official, Miguel Santana, was directed to conduct an actuarial study and look at creating a new pension category for future city employees.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is backing a proposal that would only apply to new hires. Under that plan, the retirement age would be increased to 67 and benefits would be capped at 75 percent of final compensation. Cost of living adjustments would be reduced and health benefits would be eliminated for retirees’ dependents.

In a statement to reporters, representatives for SEIU Local 721 said "any more pension 'reform' is out of the question for us." The union’s political director also addressed the council.

“We know there’s a crisis because for the last four and a half years, literally, three days a week there’s been somebody here representing the interests of workers and the interests of this great city,” said the union’s James Johnson.

"We don’t deal with threats. Let me be clear: we do not deal with threats." He paused. "…Let’s get it on."

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