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Valley Roundup | Van Nuys

Workers Picket Yaroslavsky's Office

September 01, 2000|GREG RISLING

Demanding better wages, county employees picketed Thursday outside Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's field office.

About 75 people carried signs and wore teal-colored shirts that read "Fair Share for L.A. County's Working Families." The group was also noisy, blowing whistles and having one union leader shouting slogans over a bullhorn.

"We are in a time of unparalleled prosperity," said Bart Diener, assistant general manager of SEIU Local 660, which represents more than 45,000 county employees who work in various fields throughout the county. "We've made sacrifices during the hard times, and now it's our time to prosper during the good times as well."

Diener said the union is proposing a 15.5% wage increase over a three-year period. Union leaders said the increase is needed because there is an anticipated 10% rise in the cost of living over the next three years. They added that county workers also deserve the raise because it would recoup about 5% employees lost during the 1990s.

"I don't think a strike is in anyone's best interest," Yaroslavsky said. "Their demands are understandable and they are paid far too little. But the fact is, it's a budget buster for what they are asking for."

The county faces a Sept. 30 deadline, when the union's contract expires. Union members voted earlier this month to go on strike Oct. 1 if resolution is not reached.

"We are going to strike," said Carolyn Haas, who works at a children's services office in North Hollywood. "If we strike that means we won't be delivering services to children. It will be the county's loss."

The protest is a coordinated effort by the union to appeal to elected officials. Employees plan to picket other county supervisors' offices over the next two weeks.

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