LA Labor, Labor Day and After

MAILANDER’S LA - It was June 17, 2010.They were all drinking tequila in the Mayor's conference room and watching the Lakers take care of the Celtics in the seventh and deciding game of the NBA Finals.

Mayor Villaraigosa shook hands with five labor leaders.  Everyone was feeling good.

And then the next day, because Brian D'Arcy didn't get anything from the deal, he advised Villaraigosa to scuttle it.

Labor relations during the Villaraigosa mayoralty were fueled by Antonio Villaraigosa's twin demons: tequila and indifference.  Many times, the key contract negotiations with City unions took place in Council President Eric Garcetti's office.  Matt Szabo, now Public Works Commissioner, served as a key liaison between what was happening in Garcetti's office and the Mayor's office; he provided the often indifferent Mayor's team with a reality check.

These days, hammering out big Labor deals with City unions is not tequila fueled.  Nor is Eric Garcetti the kind of Mayor who will "take Labor Day literally and meet with Labor reps once a year," in the words of one top union negotiator.

But the key Kevin James constituency that distrusts Labor and voted for Garcetti over Greuel because of Greuel's ties to the DWP may be in for a surprise from the Mayor too as he reaches his first 100 days in office.

"Ana (Guerrero) and Amy (Wakeland) are certainly the punishers, but Eric's door was always open to us," another union rep tells me, one whose appraisals of Mayor Villaraigosa and Miguel Santana are laced with profanity.

Labor negotiations typically take place after hours, and indeed, many times Eric Garcetti as Council President took meetings with Labor in his office while Antonio was too busy clubbing to meet with them.

The fact that Wendy Greuel, as the candidate of most City unions, lost the Mayor's race and Garcetti is Mayor has not disturbed key union leaders, excepting perhaps Maria Elena Durazo.

"We know how to lose elections," one of the leaders who had been in on a tequila-laced bargaining session with Antonio Villaraigosa that went nowhere told me.  "But Eric's going to be the mayor we thought we elected when we elected Antonio," he added. 

Both the union faithful and LA’s City Hall observers will be waiting and watching.

(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. Mailander blogs here.)






Vol 11 Issue 71

Pub: Sept 3, 2013