Chris Hall/Flickr (Creative Commons-licensed)
Los Angeles City Council Building
Labor union leaders representing Los Angeles city firefighters and police officers Tuesday beat back an attempt to cut back their health care benefits.
With health care costs soaring, L.A.’s City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said firefighters and police officers have a choice – contribute more toward their retirement health care plans or see benefits shrink.
Under a plan presented by Santana, the city would freeze its contribution to retiree health care plans if the police and firefighters unions don't increase contributions.
Firefighters union chief Pat McOsker was angry the city council would even consider Santana's proposal.
“This motion before you is really to strangle health care for firefighters, cops," McOsker said. "I would say to you that’s no way to treat us."
"Give us a chance to sit down and negotiate with you," he added.
The head of the Los Angeles Police Protective League Paul Weber echoed McOsker.
Firefighter and police union leaders are now negotiating their contracts. The Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which represents most civilian city employees, already has agreed to increase contributions to their retiree health care plans from 0 to 4 percent. Police officers and firefighters recently started paying 2 percent.
City Council President Eric Garcetti reminded police and firefighter union leaders that L.A. faces a nearly $400 million budget deficit, and warned of possible unpaid furloughs if they don't make concessions.
"At the end of the day, we have to balance the budget – somehow," Garcetti said.
But in the end, Garcetti voted with the majority in delaying a vote on whether to start the process of reducing retiree health care benefits. The vote was 11-3.
Councilman Bernard Parks, one of the dissenters, was overheard saying about his colleagues, “They have no guts. They don’t even pretend to have guts.”