Represent! | Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Los Angeles mayor candidates Garcetti, Greuel battle for key SEIU union endorsement

Members of SEIU Local 721 gather in front of Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.
Members of SEIU Local 721 gather in front of Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.
Brian Watt/KPCC

The two leading candidates for Los Angeles mayor appeared before a high stakes meeting of labor activists Tuesday night, hoping to win the endorsement of a city workers union.

It was the second time in as many months Service Employee International Union workers peppered L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel and Councilman Eric Garcetti with questions. The union has ruled out backing any other candidates.

Garcetti, who was president of the City Council when it voted to shrink government and lay off workers to address the deficit, sounded relieved in a statement issued after the meeting.

“Tonight rank and file workers made it clear with their votes that SEIU is not ready to endorse,” Garcetti said.  “I am grateful for the votes of so many Los Angeles workers tonight.”

SEIU officials did not release the vote totals. A Garcetti spokesman emailed a photo showing Greuel won the backing of two SEIU locals, but four others abstained or voted to make no endorsement in the March 5 primary election.

One potentially worrisome sign for Garcetti: Greuel apparently won the support of SEIU 721, the union that represents about 10,000 L.A. city workers. Under the hometown rule, SEIU often defers to the wishes of workers in the city.

“The point of being engaged in this process is to speak with one voice,” said Ian Thompson, spokesman for Local 721. “But the final authority rests with the executive board of SEIU.”

That board likely meets next week.

“Wendy has been working this very hard, as has Eric,” said Dave Jacobson, a spokesman for Greuel. “It's anyone's guess who will get the endorsement or whether they will endorse in the primary.”

Greuel already has secured the backing of the powerful unions that represent LAPD officers and Department of Water and Power workers.

Labor unions often spend money backing their preferred candidates and provide much-needed campaign manpower by walking precincts and making telephone calls.