The City and the Police Protective League, the union that represents the 10,000 sworn members of our Police Department, are at an impasse over salary negotiations. The PPL is asking for a 3 step, 8% raise over the next two years while the City is essentially offering no raises for the next two years.

But the City is not able to afford this $100 million annual increase in salaries and pension contributions as the PPL’s proposal would increase next year’s budget from $165 million to $200 million.  The projected three year cumulative deficit would balloon to $600 million, up from the current estimate of $425 million.

As a result of the PPL declaring an impasse, the controversy is now in the lap of the Employee Relations Board.  This Board, consisting of five political appointees, is charged with the responsibility of resolving disputes between the City, its unions, and its employees. 

But this Board is not considered to be impartial as a majority of its five members have been approved by the leaders of the City’s unions as a condition of their appointment by the Mayor and subsequent approval of the City Council.

Furthermore, much to the surprise of the Mayor and the City’s budget officials, this Board struck down an attempt at pension reform by rejecting the newly established pension plan for civilian employees hired after July 1, 2013. This new pension plan would have saved the City almost $4 billion over the next thirty years.

Unfortunately for the City’s voters and taxpayers, the whole process of labor negotiations is not transparent as all dealings with the City’s labor unions are conducted behind closed doors by the Employee Relations Executive Committee, a five member body consisting of Mayor Eric Garcetti, Council President Herb Wesson, and Councilmen Englander, Koretz, and Krekorian.

Needless to say, we need a more transparent process where the voters, taxpayers, and the media are not presented a last minute deal that is being given the bum’s rush through the City Council.  Rather, we need to be able to provide input throughout the negotiations and adequate time to review and analyze the final contracts and their impact on the City’s budget and pension plans.

An interesting alternative, Civic Openness in Negotiations (“COIN”), has been adopted in several Orange County jurisdictions to increase the transparency of labor negotiations, especially as it relates to the financial impact on the budget.

COIN, often referred to as “open public employee negotiations,” requires retaining an independent negotiator that is free from political pressure; an analysis of the existing labor agreements; the timely disclosure of any offers and counter offers and their cost; disclosure by elected officials of any communication with any representatives of the labor union; and that there be adequate time to review and analyze the final labor agreement.

While COIN is an interesting alternative to the current backroom method of negotiating the City’s labor agreements, it will take time to implement, especially given the vehement opposition of the campaign funding leadership of our City’s unions.

As for the PPL’s proposal for a three step, 8% increase in salaries over the next two years, our cash strapped City does not have the financial wherewithal to meet the PPL’s demands.  This fact needs to be recognized publicly by each member of the City Council.

Furthermore, any salary increases awarded to the police will only encourage the union leaders representing the City’s other 20,000 employees who are working without a contract to ask for similar raises, adding hundreds of millions to the projected deficits.

Now is the time for the voters and taxpayers to demand that the City conduct open and transparent negotiations with its unions, keep us informed on the status of the negotiations, and that our elected officials just say NO to the campaign funding unions.

Cross-posted at LA City Watch.