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Labor Group Sets July 18 Election for Chief's Post

Martin Ludlow, who faces two contenders, will quit the L.A. City Council. He is named the county federation's interim leader.

June 21, 2005|Steve Hymon and Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writers

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor will hold an election July 18 to pick a new chief after about 500 delegates failed Monday night to unanimously approve City Councilman Martin Ludlow for the job.

Ludlow was, however, appointed the federation's interim leader as of July 1 after the sudden resignation Monday of the interim secretary-treasurer and veteran political director Charles Lester.

Federation President Rick Icaza said he had no choice but to appoint Ludlow because he cannot leave the chief's post vacant; the federation's board voted to nominate Ludlow for the job earlier this month.

Of Lester's resignation, Icaza said: "I was really shocked. We had a meeting and he didn't tell me he was going to resign."

Also on Monday, Ludlow confirmed that he is stepping down from the City Council at the end of the month. He said he was not surprised that two other contenders will be running against him in the July 18 election. "This is part of the process. It's a democracy. It allows the cook, the janitor, the workers to put anyone forward for service."

The two other nominees are from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees: Ivan Corpeno Chavez, a member of the Librarians Guild, and Kevin Miguel Norte, secretary-treasurer of the court workers local.

Norte said that he was bothered because he didn't believe Ludlow has been an official federation delegate for the last three months -- a requirement that Norte argued was a requirement to run. "I'm just worried that we jumped through a lot of hoops to put Ludlow in power," he said. "I'm also worried that we're going to have someone in power from Los Angeles who can't negotiate contracts with the city" because of city ethics rules that would forbid Ludlow to lobby for a year after leaving his council seat.

Federation officials said that it is very unlikely that Ludlow won't win the July 18 election. "The majority of delegates believes that he is the best qualified candidate that can create consensus," said Hilda Delgado, spokeswoman for the federation. "Obviously this is a democratic process, so we have to go through the process."

"This will be a big blowout," said Jim Santangelo, president of Teamsters Joint Council 42.

A special election will be held to fill Ludlow's council district, which includes the Mid-City area, Koreatown and parts of South Los Angeles. The primary election would be Nov. 8 and the runoff election in January 2006.

Former state Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson has filed an intent-to-run statement with the city Ethics Commission that allows him to begin fundraising. No other candidates have filed to run with the Ethics Commission.

The federation's top spot was left empty by the sudden death of Miguel Contreras, the longtime secretary-treasurer of the federation, in early May. Maria Elena Durazo, Contreras' widow and head of Unite Here, Local 11, asked Ludlow to consider taking the job within days of her husband's burial.

The federation serves as an umbrella group to more than 350 unions in the county, covering workers in a variety of fields.

With more than 800,000 members, the federation is a force in local politics capable of lobbying area governments for policies favorable to unions and using its considerable war chest to back labor-friendly candidates. Ludlow gave a short, fiery speech in Hollywood on Monday night to delegates who gathered at the Professional Musicians Local's auditorium in Hollywood. He told the crowd that it was time for the federation to come together because of the threatened breakaway of the Service Employees International Union from the AFL-CIO on the national level, which could drain thousands of employees from the county federation.

He said that as secretary-treasurer of the federation, he would fight Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ballot measure in November that Ludlow feels would seriously weaken the political power of unions.

"This is going to be a labor movement that terminates the 'Governator,' " he said.

Annelle Grajeda, the general manager of SEIU, Local 660, with about 53,000 members, said that it's a critical time for the labor movement. "Unless we're able to organize on a grand scale in Los Angeles, it will be a race to the bottom for workers here. The future economy for our kids will be flipping burgers. That's OK in high school, but that's not a career and that's not our future."

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