Wearing purple shirts and waving flags, Service Employees International Union Local 721 members filled the seats at the county Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. Others gathered in front of the hall, chanting slogans. Many brought their children along.
SEIU Local 721 regional director Michael Green said the county appears to have recovered from the recession, because the $24.7 billion budget proposal submitted by CEO William Fujioka had no red ink for the first time in five years.
He urged the board to grant pay raises to its 55,000 members, who agreed to forgo pay raises for the last five years to help the county weather the recession. He added that 57 percent of the union's members earn less than $45,000 a year. About 17 percent make less than $30,000, while 12 percent make less than $25,000.
"Your board needs to invest in its workers," Green said. "Budget for the long-overdue raises that they deserve. "
Social worker and SEIU Local 721 treasurer David Green said its analysis showed LA County has accumulated $2.6 billion in reserves, which is more than the industry standard. In contrast, he said, county employees' salaries were frozen for five years even as the Consumer Price Index went up.
"When it comes to money, the facts are clear," he said. "You've got it. We need it. "
The board voted to hold public hearings on the budget proposal starting May 15, but did not address the union's specific concerns. Fujioka noted confidentiality rules bar him from discussing labor negotiations, and talks are currently under way with county public safety employees.
Supervisor Don Knabe praised county employees for making sacrifices that have helped the county weather the recession, but added he remains concerned about future financial obligations such as the Affordable Care Act.
"We must continue to work with our colleagues at the state and national level to ensure that Los Angeles County receives the funding necessary to continue providing mandated safety net services for our residents," he said.