Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to seek vacations for more than 15,000 city workers, despite warnings the move would harm critical city services and force police officers from patrol cars into the service of the desk.
Councilors agreed to a tax emergency statement that paves the way for many civil city workers to have an unpaid day off every two weeks – a 10% wage cut. Councilor Mike Bonin cast the only vote against the vacation days, saying they would force LAPD officials to resume some of the work of their employees on leave, reducing the number of patrols in the neighborhood and slowing police response times.
Bonin asked his colleagues to first instruct the city negotiators to begin meeting with the Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officials, and to come up with a proposal to delay their planned increases and bonuses. That effort should begin before the vacation days go into effect, he said.
“There are some people who want more police work. There are some people who want less policing, ”said Bonin. "But I don't know there is anyone who wants us to pay the LAPD more for less policing."
The council voted 9-3 against the proposal after the city's chief budget officer said the negotiators are demanding savings from every workers' union, including the league.
"We need to speak to all of our work partners – civilians and affidavits – and we have already started these discussions on how to fill the gap," said Richard Llewellyn, city administrator, to the city council.
Councilors Herb Wesson and Marqueece Harris-Dawson backed Bonin's push to ask the police union to postpone their new raises and bonuses, which are part of a three-year deal that is expected to add $ 123 million to this year's budget. But both also voted for the vacation program, which does not apply to police officers, firefighters, nurses and librarians, among others.
LAPD union officials have previously stated that they cannot and do not intend to be forced to give up their raises. On Wednesday, the Liga criticized Bonin for singling them out, noting that the council had slashed the LAPD by $ 150 million back in July, reducing the department to 9,757 officials – the lowest level since 2008.
In a statement, the union executive pointed out that Bonin voted to approve the increases last year.
"He finds it difficult to keep an eye on all of his flip-flops when it comes to public safety," said the union committee. "He voted to pay competitive wages to police officers to recruit and retain, and now wants to cut their wages to help his political ambitions."
The spending debate comes as the city faces the worst financial crisis since the last recession. Standstills following the COVID-19 outbreak have weighed on the city with additional costs and below-expected tax revenues. In addition to this pressure, there are a number of more expensive employee salary agreements.
Under the contract with the league, the ordinary officers are well on their way to a combined 4.8% increase in the current fiscal year, which began July 1. The first of the union's two hikes – 1.5% – went into effect July 5, and another 3.25% is due in January.
On Wednesday, the council agreed to offer eligible workers up to $ 80,000 for retirement, which is expected to save $ 13 million. Meanwhile, LAPD officials are not alone in receiving increases during the ongoing budget crisis.
The city's fire services union received a 4.75% pay rise on July 5 and will receive an additional 3% next summer, according to a city release. The LA City Unions coalition, which represents half a dozen civil urban worker groups, is slated to receive a 2% increase in January and an additional 2% in June.
Bonin said he did not want to postpone the coalition or the fire union, or give up their increases. The LAPD is the "big kahuna," he said, as it consumes more than half of the city's unrestricted funds.
"I wouldn't support asking the Los Angeles firefighters for concessions," he said. "Right now they are on the front lines of our fight against climate change, and we have a … history of firefighting decimation behind us in Los Angeles."
Bob Schoonover, president of Service Employees International Union Local 721, made it clear that his union intends to continue fighting the wage cuts.
"We know that vacation days are illegal under our employment contracts and we will fight vigorously to defend our heroes on the front lines," he said in a statement.