Tough times, good partners
March 20, 2012
For the past several years, all of our county labor unions have gone without a pay raise. In the case of our sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, lifeguards, probation officers and public defender investigators, it’s been three straight years.
Now they’re about to make it four in a row.
With the Board of Supervisors’ approval this week of another one-year contract extension with our public safety labor partners, I thought it was time to pause for a moment and say thank you. Our employees’ willingness to step up to the plate in these difficult times is one of the reasons our county finds itself in much better shape, relatively speaking, than most other municipalities throughout California, as well as the state itself.
Our unique and healthy partnership with labor, together with the long-running fiscal discipline shown by the Board of Supervisors, is paying dividends as we continue to weather a difficult economic environment.
I’m not saying that it’s been easy, or painless. But we have gotten through the financial crisis to date without having to lay off or furlough a single employee. This is particularly important in these tough times, when demand for the county’s safety net services soars.
Thanks go as well to my board colleagues and to our Chief Executive Office. Together with our labor partners, I believe we’ve created an atmosphere of mutual trust—one in which relatively modest sacrifices today help avert far more painful consequences tomorrow.
I’ve written in this space before about how we’ve gotten to this point—how our current policies of prudence and restraint grew out of the lessons learned during a financial rough spell back in the mid-1990s when the county was spending beyond its means to the tune of $1 billion a year. That wake-up call, shortly after I joined the Board of Supervisors, is an alarm that none of us wants to hear ever again.
So now, as we see other local and state governments in tumult around us—and as we continue to grapple with hard choices in our own budget—we can take satisfaction in what we’ve been able to accomplish together.
All of our employees are still working. They’re still putting food on their families’ tables. And they’re still serving the people of Los Angeles County. And in this economic environment, that’s a remarkable thing.