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Labor group won't back away from campaign mailer

Mailer to Latino voters urges support for Wendy Greuel because she 'will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour,' but Greuel does not back that minimum pay level for all workers.

May 17, 2013|By David Zahniser, Laura J. Nelson and Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times
  • A Wendy Greuel supporter waves a sign as City Councilman Richard Alarcon speaks at a campaign event for Eric Garcetti at Los Angeles City Hall.
A Wendy Greuel supporter waves a sign as City Councilman Richard Alarcon… (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles…)

The most powerful labor organization in Los Angeles refused Friday to back away from a campaign mailer in which it urges voters to support Wendy Greuel for mayor because she "will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour."

Even though Greuel has said she supports the higher "living wage" only for workers at large hotels, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor chief Maria Elena Durazo accused the media of "nitpicking" when she was questioned about the accuracy of the mailer, which went to Latino voters. The current statewide minimum wage is $8 an hour, although some hotels near LAX have agreed to pay workers about $11 per hour.

Durazo, the federation's executive secretary-treasurer, described Greuel as "the type of candidate that will raise wages for all workers." But the head of the 600,000-member labor coalition also acknowledged Greuel has committed only to supporting higher hotel wages.

"It's not about nitpicking a mailer," Durazo said at a news conference in which she outlined the organization's get-out-the-vote plans for Tuesday's election. "This is how we as a labor movement feel that Wendy is going to address a specific issue. And the broader issue of poverty of Los Angeles needs to be addressed. That's what we should be debating here, not the specific words in a mailer."

Greuel on Friday reiterated that she has not given support to a $15 minimum wage for all workers. And she repeated her admonition that all ads for both her and her rival, City Councilman Eric Garcetti, "should be factual in nature, whether it is done by the AFL-CIO or whoever is doing it."

Greuel, the city controller, has been targeted by an independent pro-Garcetti group's television ad that implies she backed Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot initiative that sought to limit government services to illegal immigrants. She called the ad "disgusting," saying she campaigned against the measure.

The ad has aired at a time when Greuel and Garcetti are furiously wooing Latino voters. As they do so, Durazo and other labor leaders have made the $15-an-hour wage a rallying cry. Appearing with Durazo at Friday's event, hotel workers blasted Garcetti for refusing to commit to that level of "living wage" at large hotels, an issue expected to reach the City Council later this year. "He turned his back on these workers," Durazo said.

Hours later, Greuel appeared on Santa Monica Boulevard to challenge Garcetti's claim that he revitalized Hollywood. She said other crime was down, but rapes had gone up 68% in Hollywood.

"Hollywood's little secret is … it is one of the most dangerous places for women in the city, something Mr. Garcetti seems to be ignoring," Greuel said. She also renewed an earlier attack: slamming Garcetti for taking campaign contributions from a convicted felon, real estate developer Juri Ripinsky. She stood in front of a building that she described as a failed Ripinsky project, saying she was telling the "real Hollywood story."

Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman disputed Greuel's crime claims, saying rape in Hollywood had decreased 18.8% from 2002 to 2012. The campaign has said that it is ridiculous to draw a connection to Ripinsky's previous legal problems, since Garcetti was a college student when they occurred. And Garcetti has invited voters to examine Hollywood and other communities in his district, saying there is no comparison between this year and 2001, the year he took office.

"Hollywood's turnaround is undoubtedly a success story," Millman said. "Eric's district is No. 1 in job growth and violent crime has dropped by two-thirds."

Greuel's supporters stayed on the offensive as Garcetti sought to turn attention to his support from current and former council members, including Bernard C. Parks, Richard Alarcon, Herb Wesson, Rita Walters and Ruth Galanter. Greuel supporters crashed Garcetti's news conference at City Hall and demanded that a pro-Garcetti independent campaign group take down the ad linking Greuel to Proposition 187.

One of the those rallying against Garcetti was a Huntington Park physician who said he would take down his own negative TV ad if the anti-Greuel ads are pulled. Dr. Feliciano Serrano's ad accuses Garcetti of donning a "Latino mask" to run for office. Garcetti is descended from Mexican immigrants who are of Italian heritage.

Serrano noted that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa criticized both attack ads and said they should be off the air. "In light of what Antonio Villaraigosa said yesterday, I think we should all get along. I think we should stick to the positive issues," Serrano told journalists. He declined to apologize for the content of his ad, asking why Garcetti didn't "expose himself as Latino before the election."

Times staff writer James Rainey contributed to this report.

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