When the Business Journal endorsed Eric Garcetti for Los Angeles mayor in last week’s issue, it believed that the two candidates are much alike, except for the “unsettling” amount of financial support from labor unions that Wendy Greuel has received during the campaign.
“It creates the expectation that Greuel would not – could not – act as an effective brake on the runaway power of unions in Los Angeles,” the endorsement states.
It’s telling that the strongest argument for Garcetti is just a result of a failure on Garcetti’s part to impress the very parties his candidate is being vilified for. Media reports have shared records of members-only sessions where Garcetti and Greuel both courted the Service Employees International Union but it has decided to stand behind Greuel.
This leads readers to wonder if the Business Journal would have endorsed Greuel if Garcetti instead had the endorsements of the SEIU and Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, if that is the primary difference between the two candidates.
Union backing is the only difference the entire 740-word endorsement decided to focus on, although another is that Greuel also has the backing of the political action committees of the three biggest business groups in the region: the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Central City Association.
Alongside those, Greuel has the support of nearly every single business group in the region, excluding the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which is located in Garcetti’s City Council district.
It’s naïve to believe that Greuel’s actions as a mayor would be completely dependent on those groups that have financially supported her campaign the most – and yet the Business Journal is not the only outlet or group claiming that Greuel is beholden to labor unions.
The concept of being backed by labor unions is not unsettling in and of itself, as the Business Journal endorsement leads readers to believe. Greuel’s endorsement list would be unsettling only if she had a history of bowing down to the highest bidders, but she does not.
The VICA PAC and other business PACs endorsed Greuel because as city stakeholders we are looking for the candidate who will get the job done. We expect occasionally to clash with the mayor, whoever it is, but we want to always know where the future mayor stands.
The International Brotherhood of Electric Workers likely feels the same way, which is why the PAC that represents Department of Water & Power workers supports Greuel despite a clear time line of audits, votes of opposition and public callouts that have come from Greuel while in the Controller’s Office and on the City Council.
The concept of candidates catering to their highest donors is an easy sound bite for readers and voters to digest, but it simplifies the process too much and distracts from the primary issue of the campaign: How will each candidate create more jobs and a better quality of life for L.A. residents?
Recent polling shows the dissonance between the concept of puppet string-holding labor unions and how it would actually affect Greuel’s actions. In an April 21 Los Angeles Times-USC poll, 47 percent of voters trusted Greuel the most to handle the city’s budget and financial situation versus 39 percent who trust Garcetti. And 45 percent of voters trust Greuel to handle schools and education, compared with just 36 percent for Garcetti.
Greuel would not be considered the most trusted candidate to handle the budget and schools if she were strictly beholden to the labor unions. Voters believe pension reform is extremely necessary to help close the city deficit. Greuel has said in interviews that she supports further pension reform, but wants to keep the conversation open to avoid litigation.
The VICA PAC’s list of reasons for endorsing Greuel is long – the controller understands the Valley’s business needs as a small-business owner with experience in the entertainment industry. She has been a leading architect alongside VICA for business tax reform. She facilitated the quick and strong federal response after the Northridge Earthquake.
Our endorsement doesn’t come with a shrug and an overused and oversimplified pointing of fingers at the unions. Business is firmly on Greuel’s side.
Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a business advocacy organization based in Sherman Oaks that represents employers throughout the Los Angeles County region at the local, state and federal levels of government.