Phones rang off the hook at the Wendy Greuel for L.A. mayor campaign when the candidate declared that she was for sitting down with the public employee unions to reconsider the pension reforms recently passed by the city council. Greuel, who has made an effort to court both the unions and the business community, got an earful from business leaders.

Wendy is attempting a high wire balancing act, hoping to keep the high powered and money rich unions on her side while also reaching an accord with the business community and some of the more conservative city voters.

In the early stages of the L.A. Mayoral race, Greuel seemed the natural to capture business support if she eventually faced Councilman Eric Garcetti, as most experts expected. Indeed, she finished a few percentage points behind Garcetti in the primary and the two will meet in a final runoff May 21.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to the election. Greuel, who built her campaign around a theme of confronting waste, fraud and abuse at city hall, polishing her record as the city controller, fell in line with the public unions.

Some have speculated that Greuel benefited from the unions desire to offer payback to Garcetti for supporting the pension reform that changes the pension rules for new city hires.

Greuel’s recent comment that those rule changes should be dealt with through collective bargaining, thus possibly delaying or undoing what it expected to be a $4 billion long term savings for the city, is what set off business concerns.

Greuel with her early union support, was in good position to be a unifying force in the city, bringing both business and labor together.

However, as she learned in the last couple of days, she is treading a difficult course. Greuel immediately backed off her comment to a Los Angeles Times reporter when the backlash began, saying she just wants to give the unions a say but intends to hold to the reforms.

How will the unions react to the new statement?

Riding to Greuel’s rescue yesterday was former mayor, Richard Riordan, a Republican who has spoken out strongly on the dangers of public employee benefits squeezing the city’s budget. He signed on as an advisor to the Greuel campaign. One of his assignments: talk to the business community and keep them on Greuel’s side.

It’s a dangerous balancing act Greuel is trying to manage and  if she falls there is no safety net below.