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Villaraigosa Crosses First Picket Line


In 2005, Los Angeles voters elected a Mayor with deep roots in the City and State’s labor movement. Today, for the first time in his life, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa crossed crossed a picket line to do his job at City Hall.

In the waning days of power in 2005, an embattled Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn approved one of the biggest giveaways in City history: Showering employees at the city-owned Department of Water and Power with lavish raises. At the time, pragmatic City Hall observers warned that the workers on L.A’s Spring Street city offices would demand double-digit pay raises down the road.

Those warnings were not heeded, and now the Los Angeles Engineers and Architects Association is on strike.

Villaraigosa and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo went to the courts to order essential union members to remain on the job, in an act of union-busting that was more reminiscent of President Ronald Reagan than any Democratic chief executive I can think of.

But what got into Mayor Villaraigosa to stray so far off the labor reservation?

The easy answer is to assume that, once Villaraigosa became a chief executive, he recognized that there are more priorities than those of Labor. Paying street repair people more does not fix any more potholes, and that’s what the people who are voting for Mayors care about.

But the current labor dispute is but an undercurrent in the biggest of Mayor Villaraigosa’s big ideas for L.A. – shaking up the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Earlier this year, Villaraigosa took on the LAUSD and its teachers’ unions, arguing that the status quo has been an abject failure and needs to be replaced by (what else?) Mayoral control.

Facing opposition in a state legislature bought and paid for by the teachers and their union allies, Villaraigosa played, “let’s make a deal,” and gave the union control over textbooks and curriculum and the Mayor’s office power to select a superintendent.

With the name of ultra-liberal Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (who once infamously tried passing legislation limiting the length of textbooks to prevent kids from having to carry around too much weight) being circulated as a potential, some Villaraigosa allies began to worry that “Mayoral Control” could be just a Trojan Horse resulting in “Union Takeover.”

Crossing the picket line today, Villaraigosa hopes he will put such speculation to rest.

Share  Posted by Scott Olin Schmidt at 1:06 PM | Permalink

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