warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Eric Garcetti Showcases His Union Support

Paresh Dave |
March 27, 2013 | 6:14 p.m. PDT

Executive Director

Though they're both labor union organizers in L.A., the Roman brothers haven't chatted much lately.

Jorge Roman works for United Serviceworkers West, which backs Eric Garcetti in the L.A. mayoral election. His brother, Manuel, works for the UNITE Hotel and Restaurant Employees Local 11, part of the L.A. County Federation of Labor coalition backing Wendy Greuel.

The division in their family highlights the separation between labor unions ahead of the May 21 election. With two Democrats facing off against each ther, the city's major public-employee unions and other groups with the deepest pockets have backed Greuel while the leading teacher's union and few outsiders in the pack have called Garcetti their strongest ally.

Jorge's union hosted 10 others at an indoor press conference Wednesday to collectively trumpet their support for Garcetti. Dressed in union colors, from orange to purple, a few dozen union members, including some not old enough to vote, repeatedly chanted "Garcetti" in a distinctly Latino tone as the candidate arrived at the podium.

"He fights the fight with us and alongside us," United Serviceworkers West president Mike Garcia said of Garcetti.

Jorge, who handles grievances from union members, said Garcetti's support of union efforts at LAX is among the chief reasons he likes Garcetti.

USWW represents 40,000 workers, including janitors, wheelchair attendants and security guards at LAX. The union rallied outside LAX last Thanksgiving, decrying a decision by airport contractor Aviation Safeguards to cut ties with the union. Workers have said their healthcare benefits took a hit as a result.

"I work with people who travel to TJ to get medications because their healthcare doesn't cover their prescription," Dani Fuentes said at Wednesday's press conference.

Jorge Moran said neither Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa nor Controller Wendy Greuel have been as vocal in the dispute as Garcetti.

Ahead of the Thanksgiving rally, Garcetti said in a release that it's "time for the airport to get its act together" to make sure "we don’t have labor unrest."

"He's shown he's for the working people," Jorge Moran said.

His brother declined comment. UNITE HERE Local 11 and Garcetti have traditionally been allies. Garcetti even drew heat from the business community in 2007 when he asked people to observe a boycott of Hyatt organized by the union. But the union split with Garcetti when it joined the county labor federation in officially endorsing Greuel last week.

Members of the International Longshore Workers Union, Teamsters, United Teachers Los Angeles, the Engineers and Architects Association, Workers United, Communication Workers of America, Laborers, Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association and United Food and Commercial Workers were also on hand for Wednesday's event. Together, the unions claim to represent nearly 100,000 workers in the region.

Randy Cammack of Teamsters Local 630 said the union would invest in Garcia at the same level it backed the No on Proposition 32 campaign last November. The statewide ballot measure would have limited union fundraising abilities.

Cammack said the union would put "boots on the ground" and do everything it could money-wise to ensure that someone like Greuel could not destroy the voice of labor.

Specifically, he said former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordian's endorsement of Greuel associated her with an anti-labor voice. Riordian has pushed for the city to reduce pension benefits given to employees.

Both Greuel and Garcetti have said everything should be on table in dealing with public-employee unions, but neither candidate has detailed specific changes they would seek.

Garcetti said Wednesday that his first priority would be focusing on the basics: reducing crime, fixing streets and, of course, creating and protecting jobs.

"This campaign isn't about electing me mayor," he said. "It's about giving a voice to all of you."

Like reporter Paresh Dave on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, circle him on Google+ or send him an e-mail.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.