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Hundreds of L.A. County workers rally to demand pay raises

April 16, 2013|By Abby Sewell
  • Boisterous Los Angeles County employees filled the Hall of Administration Tuesday to demand pay raises from the Board of Supervisors.
Boisterous Los Angeles County employees filled the Hall of Administration… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

Hundreds of boisterous Los Angeles County employees flocked to the Hall of Administration on Tuesday to demand pay raises from the Board of Supervisors.

Many of the workers -- who flooded the steps in front of the board room wearing purple SEIU shirts, blowing whistles and waving flags that said "Turn It Up" -- also brought their children to the rally holding signs that said "My Mom Needs a Raise" and "My Dad Needs a Raise."

Supervisors were slated to discuss the $24.7-billion budget proposal unveiled by county Chief Executive Officer William T Fujioka, which for the first time in five years is balanced and contains no major cuts.

Most of the county's approximately 101,000 employees have gone without raises for the past five years. The county is currently at the bargaining table with public safety employees and will go into negotiations with other labor groups in the coming months.

Local 721 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 55,000 county workers, rallied its members to the board meeting. Union officials said they expected 2,000 to 3,000 members to turn out throughout the day.

Yolanda Renteria, 41, a child support officer who brought her three teenage children to the rally, said she is the family's sole breadwinner, and it has been difficult to get by with wages frozen.

"Everything else is going up -- our taxes are going up, gas," she said.

Frank Pineda, 41, a welfare-to-work supervisor in the Department of Public Social Services, came with his 10-year-old daughter, Emily, and their South African mastiff, Poncho.

"As public servants, we said we need to have a strong county, and we made concessions for years," he said. "It's about time they do what we did."

Lisa Barrios, 52, a welfare receptionist, said the workload has tripled in the past few years, between increasing demand for services and a hiring freeze that left positions unfilled when workers retired or left.

She acknowledged that the county has not had layoffs or furloughs like many other municipalities, but said, "It's not a fair trade-off."

County officials have signaled that they are willing to consider a pay increase.

County board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas said in a statement that the county should proceed with "caution but also optimism" in the negotiations.

"Workers are indeed entitled to a wage increase, but any increase needs a sustainable source of funding and must be fiscally prudent," he said.

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Twitter: @sewella

abby.sewell@latimes.com

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