Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa makes a point in 2010 as City Administrative… (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles…)
In his Wednesday column, Steve Lopez said it's time for public employee unions to make concessions. Lopez said he believes strongly in unions but the times require compromise:
For more than half of my 38 years in the news business, I've been a member of a union, though I'm not currently. And my late father was a proud Teamster for decades.
So I appreciate the goods that unions deliver to nearly 15 million members in the United States: living wages and good benefits. Workplace safety. A measure of job security. And protection against management abuse.
In other words, don't count me among those who vilify organized labor, which in many parts of the country offers the best hope for hanging on to a place in the middle class. And when it comes to public employee unions, no, they shouldn't have to trade pensions for 401(k)s, though a hybrid wouldn't be so bad. We're going to have enough of a disaster on our hands when non-union retirees end up flat broke and on the dole, especially if Social Security gets trimmed.
Because up and down the state of California, and beyond, public officials foolishly negotiated contracts they can't pay for without taking a cleaver to basic services, including police and fire protection, park maintenance, street repair. It's not just the fault of those contracts. There's also the economic dip and the housing crash, which put a squeeze on revenue. But that perfect storm has led to big trouble in San Jose and Stockton and Fresno and San Diego.
And of course in Los Angeles.
Lopez's column received a flurry of reader comments, some supporting his stand:
If Steve Lopez thinks that public employee unions need to cut back on their outlandish pay and benefits then you know the problem is real.
Others thought Lopez was off the mark. One reader wrote:
With all due respect to the well written article by Mr. Lopez, many county employees pay a healthy amount toward their benefits out of every paycheck. Considering the hours they spend over and above what is required for their jobs, the residents of this county, city and state get their money's worth out of the great work public employees do and it's not their fault private employers don't provide for them! Just because you have a crummy pension doesn't mean others should have to settle!
Where do you stand? Give us your take below.