Los Angeles mayor hails labor contract, says other unions must follow

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa formally announces today that for the first time in the city a union of civilian city employees has agreed to share in the cost of their health care. He speaks at a press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa formally announces today that for the first time in the city a union of civilian city employees has agreed to share in the cost of their health care. He speaks at a press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010. Jason Kandel/KPCC

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Tuesday said the city’s Engineers and Architects Association (EAA) should be an example to other unions that they must pay more for their healthcare.

The mayor said EAA’s 4,000 members have agreed for the first time to pay 5 percent of their healthcare premiums. Until now, they’ve paid nothing. They’ve also agreed to higher co-pays and lower bonus pay for bilingual and other skills.

“In these tough times, this is exactly the kind of thing we have to do – share in the sacrifice,” the mayor said.

The city faces revenue shortfalls this year and a more than $300 million deficit next year. Officials estimate the city’s healthcare cost will rise $153 million over the next four years.

"At a time when we are reducing library hours and curtailing fire service, this is an unsustainable expenditure in the city of Los Angeles," Villaraigosa said.

The Engineers and Architects contract saves the city $20 million this year, and $10 million a year after that.

Other city unions blasted the deal.

The Coalition of LA City Unions, which represents 22,000 city workers issued a statement that said “the agreement would permanently give up hard-fought gains in benefits and employment rights that had been built up over decades … all in exchange for a one-time reduction in furlough days.”

Under the deal, city will reduce unpaid furlough days for EAA members from 26 to 10 this year.

The union’s Interim Executive Director Michael Davies defended the deal.

“It’s not enough simply to say no and feel that somehow this storm is going to be weathered and that within 12 months or 24 months the city will be back into a situation where they can afford to provide a 100 percent subsidy for a healthcare premium," said Davies. “Those days have ended."

Villaraigosa said the coalition and other unions must agree to increase healthcare payments and to pension reforms, or face more layoffs. He singled out the unions that represent police and firefighters on changing their pensions.

"We will go to impasse on this issue, we will move ahead to make the tough choices to put us in a more sustainable position."

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