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Council Will Stay Out of Chavez Holiday Decision

March 25, 2004|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

Backtracking from their actions a day earlier, Los Angeles City Council members said Wednesday they would not get involved in the question of whether city engineers take Monday off to honor labor leader Cesar Chavez.

Council members, who will observe the holiday along with 22,000 other city employees, had objected Tuesday to a proposal that engineers and administrative workers at the city's Department of Water and Power take a different day instead.

But Wednesday, several council members suggested that they had perhaps acted too hastily in wading into the middle of ongoing labor negotiations.

"There was an impression that this was an urgent item, that we needed to get this in," said Councilman Martin Ludlow. "The reality couldn't be further from the truth."

The controversy arose because the 1,450 engineers and administrative workers at the DWP recently changed union representation. Under their old union, the Engineers and Architects Assn., they stayed home on Cesar Chavez's birthday to commemorate the late founder and leader of the United Farm Workers.

But their new union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, does not recognize Chavez day, instead giving a floating holiday and a half-day before Christmas.

Miguel Contreras, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, told council members Wednesday that he had known and worked with Chavez for years, but that the holiday issue should be worked out "at the bargaining table."

Council members rushed to agree.

"These are complicated negotiations," said Councilman Ed Reyes, who nevertheless stressed that "having a hero like Cesar Chavez means so much."

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