LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Roughly 2,000 union members employed by Los Angeles County assembled on Grand Avenue today to push for what they say is a fair shake, while the county's chief executive said he was ready to offer a 6 percent wage increase over three years.
Police officers along the march route said they expected 3,000-5,000 people to join the rally and march through downtown to the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.
A band played Public Enemy's ``Fight the Power'' and Bob Marley's ``Get Up, Stand Up,'' from the back of a truck as labor leaders prompted the purple- shirted crowd in a call and response: ``They say cut back,'' ``We say fight back.''
``We've brought thoughtful proposals that would benefit Angelenos of all stripes to the bargaining table,'' said David Green, a children's social worker and treasurer for Service Employees International Union Local 721. ``The county has been ignoring the needs of
That offer is a 2 percent wage increase this month, 2 percent next October and 2 percent in April 2015, according to the
A county spokesman said yesterday that the 6 percent increase was already on the table, while a union spokesman flatly denied that the union had received that proposal.
Fujioka said today that 4 percent had formally been offered to the union, but the difference seemed to come down to bargaining tactics.
``You have to understand how bargaining occurs,'' the
SEIU spokesman Lowell Goodman declined to say whether a 6 percent increase would be accepted or precisely what level of wage would be acceptable.
``Then I'd be doing the work of the bargaining team,'' Goodman said.
Goodman did say that workers had been asked to contribute more to their healthcare premiums at a level that would, in many cases, exceed the amount of a 2 percent raise, a point echoed by many members at the rally.
``Healthcare is going up 8 percent'' over three years, said union shop steward Frank Pineda.
Fujioka said that the healthcare negotiations were completely separate and no proposal at all had been made by the county.
``There's nothing on the table right now (for healthcare),'' Fujioka said.
About half of the roughly 55,000 SEIU local union members earn $40,000 a year or less, Goodman said, while the county spokesman cited the average salary, which he calculated at $53,800 per year.
``The living wage has stayed stagnant, while the economy has not,'' Pineda said.
Union members are also pressing for non-economic terms, like a stronger rideshare program to reduce traffic congestion and a move to close property tax loopholes for large corporations.
``Bargaining is a chance for our members ... to bargain around things that will improve their jobs and the lives of the citizens of
County spokesman David Sommers said the SEIU employees -- who include nurses, social workers, park employees and librarians -- provide services he called ``critical,'' but that the county was prepared to provide residents the services they need despite the walkout.
``We're closely monitoring the impact,'' Fujioka said, ``and we've seen no significant service impact whatsoever.''
Union organizers and county officials agree that county employees deserve higher wages after nearly five years without any increase.
``All of our labor partners did this incredible thing over the last four years. We haven't had to cut public services ... because labor agreed to forego raises during the recession,'' Sommers said.
Any new formal proposal will require a vote by the Board of Supervisors. Its next public meeting is scheduled for Oct. 8.
The union representative stressed that it is not a strike and employees will return to work Wednesday morning.
``The county is optimistic that we will have a resolution soon,'' Sommers said.
Grand Avenue was temporarily closed between First and Fourth streets to accommodate the march, which is expected to end at