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Judge refuses mayor's request to restrict strikes

December 01, 2006|Joe Mathews | Times Staff Writer

A Superior Court judge handed a defeat to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday, refusing to grant a restraining order requiring that the city be notified in advance of strikes by one of its unions.

Judge David P. Yaffe turned down the city's request for a temporary restraining order against the Engineers and Architects Assn., which represents more than 7,500 professionals who work for the city.

This week, the union has conducted small, one-day "spot strikes," where union members walk out at different city departments each day. On Thursday, union employees struck at the Port of Los Angeles, where Teamsters truck drivers refused to cross picket lines to deliver provisions to a Norwegian Cruise Line ship. That created a delay in loading the cruise ship, but had no impact on departures, said a port spokesman.

At Villaraigosa's urging, the city had asked for 60 hours advance notice before a strike, citing case law in which teachers unions were required to give advance notice of walkouts. But Yaffe indicated that legal precedents to require such notice were far from clear, and that requiring advance notice of strikes may contradict state law.

"All strikes are for the purpose of discomfiting the employer," said the judge, who scheduled another hearing on the matter for Dec. 18.

Robert Aquino, the union's executive director, said he expected the judge's decision. "The city has now subjected itself to ongoing strikes like this on an unannounced basis," he said. If the city does not return to the bargaining table, he added, "there are going to be further disruptions."

After the decision, Councilman Dennis Zine criticized the city attorney's office, saying lawyers there had left the impression that obtaining such an order was established procedure. "It appears the advice we received from the city attorney was inaccurate," Zine said.

Deputy City Atty. Hugo Rossitter declined comment as he left the courtroom. A city attorney spokesman, Nick Velasquez, said, "The mayor's office asked us to pursue the temporary restraining order."

Mayoral spokesman Matt Szabo said the mayor's position has not changed. "He believes they should be required to give the city fair notice," Szabo said.

joe.mathews@latimes.com

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