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Los Angeles City Council Approves Labor Contracts Costing $1 Billion Through 2028

Los Angeles City Council Approves Labor Contracts Costing $1 Billion Through 2028

Los Angeles city employees with SEIU Local 721 join a picket line at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles on Aug. 8, 2023. (Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo)

City News Service

City News Service

4/17/2024

Updated: 4/17/2024

LOS ANGELES—The Los Angeles City Council approved new contracts April 17 with labor groups representing thousands of employees that would result in pay raises totaling 22 percent over the course of five years, as well as improved benefits.
The council voted 14–0 in favor of contracts with the Coalition of City Unions, Engineers and Architects Association and the City Attorney Units, as well as the Fiscal and Policy Professional Association and non-represented employees. The agreements will spread out wage increases for several years, increasing the minimum wage for city workers to $20 per hour starting this year, with the goal of reaching $25 per hour by 2026.
Councilman Kevin de León was absent during Wednesday’s vote.
More than 33,450 workers including recreation and parks employees, sanitation workers, custodians, traffic control officers and accountants, among others, will receive a 6 percent boost to their wages by the end of 2024, the first year of the contract.
By fiscal year 2028-29, the contracts are expected to total more than $1 billion, and the cumulative number is estimated at $3.5 billion, according to City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo.
Mr. Szabo said the contracts update salary steps for certain classifications, and include shared provisions across the board aimed at improving retention.
The city updated its sick leave payout from 50 to 100 percent, pertaining to both annual payouts and upon retirement. There are also improvements to paid parental leave, increasing paid time off to 12 weeks.
Hourly, intermittent workers would be eligible for health care coverage. Many intermittent workers are employees at recreation and parks, often seasonal workers. Details are still being finalized, but the city has agreed on a health care allocation for every hour worked by every employee in the city, and at least a single party coverage rate.
City officials are also working on potential housing arrangements to ensure employees live in the city by providing mortgage or rent-reduction benefits, as well as building housing on city-owned property and setting aside some units for qualifying city employees.
Steve Koffroth, chair of the Coalition of City Unions and interim director of research and marketing at SEIU Local 721, called the agreements a “good deal for all parties.”
“This deal reflects the reality that we’re in,” Mr. Koffroth said. “Prior budgets had a wishful notion that missed an important point—you need actual workers and budget authorities to provide the actual services.”
David Green, president of SEIU Local 721, echoed Koffroth’s sentiments in an email to City News Service, saying Angelenos deserve “reliable and consistent city services, that’s exactly what we fought for and won.”
“Our well-deserved contract is making major strides in addressing recruitment and retention in critical areas. The contract has already resulted in the hiring of more than 800 employees in the last couple of months. And there are about 3,000 jobs that will still be prioritized for hiring,” Mr. Green said.
Marleen Fonseca, executive director of EAA, echoed Koffroth’s sentiments, added that her union’s members “approved the contract overwhelmingly.” She also said she believes the city can handle the cost associated with the contract.
“As emphasized by Mayor [Karen Bass] at her State of the City speech, billions of dollars are expected to be generated over the coming years with the World Cup and the Olympics,” Ms. Fonseca said in an email to CNS.
During Wednesday’s council meeting, employees of Los Angeles Police Department’s Records and Identification Division spoke against their specific agreement. More than 10 of these employees urged council members to reconsider their contract to further discuss telecommuting options, and plans to address a worker shortage.
Anna Castro called the division’s workload “heavy,” with workers often responding to several agencies seeking crime and arrest reports, head shots, documents needed for court proceedings and helping residents in multiple languages. She also noted that the division provides services 24/7.
“While I appreciate the efforts negotiated on behalf of us, I feel compelled to highlight some issues,” RID employee Cora Garcia told City Council members.
She said the contract will provide workers $25 an hour by 2026 at a time when most workers need it now to cover housing, transportation and food expenses. She called it disappointing that the proposed raises will leave them “earning comparable wages to fast food workers.”
Prior to the vote, Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez said the city has to strike a “balancing act” in providing proper wages and ensuring city services.
“We will continue to be asked to do more with less, but we will continue to do our best to honor and respect all of the contributions that our city workforce continues to provide the people of Los Angeles,” Ms. Rodriguez said.
Also Wednesday, the council’s Personnel, Audits and Hiring Committee voted unanimously in favor of the contracts.
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