Bargaining to Fix LA: Calling on City Hall to put City Needs Ahead of Wall Street Greed

An estimated 1,000 community members, religious leaders, and LA City workers delivered over 4,000 hand-collected  petitions to send a message to the Mayor and City Council to recover taxpayer revenue from Wall Street– not working-class communities of color– to restore vital services and protect good middle-class jobs in the public sector.

Reverend William Smart, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Los Angeles, said: 

“Working families made sacrifices when the finance giants tanked the economy, but our communities continue to suffer long after the big banks enjoy   the riches of the recovery because of the predatory practices of Wall Street.

“The City is responsible for protecting the public’s interest and driving local prosperity by creating middle class jobs that benefit local residents and provide quality neighborhood services.  We call upon our City leaders to take the next step in going after Wall Street to return the resources needed to fix LA.”

Rev. Smart, a founding leader in the clergy-community-labor Fix LA coalition noted that 75% of LA City workers are African American, Latino, and Asian, many of them second and first-generation immigrants.

“Civil-service jobs in the public sector have historically been the gateway to the middle class, and a city as diverse as LA must uphold that in its employment practices.”

Hundreds packed Council chambers, and a lineup of speakers testified there and  in an overflow public-style speakout in the rotunda to reinforce the point that the City Council has an urgent obligation to protect LA’s working families and their communities, which  have been decimated by eroding services, by standing up to excesses of  the Wall Street  banks that LA does business with.

Emergency 911 operator Eva Espinoza, said: 

“By cutting staff, we have fewer operators able to answer emergency calls, especially on the bilingual line.

“We are working  twice as fast as before– with inadequate staffing to handle the calls. People in crisis are waiting minutes to get their calls answered. That can represent the difference between life and death.”

Rev. Smart, Ms. Espinoza and other speakers also presented the “Fix LA” Bargaining proposals to the City Council. The package includes provisions that would bring immediate benefits back into the communities in the form of restored services, improved public and child safety,  and protect middle-class jobs and create career opportunities, such as local hire and public works programs for LA’s neediest neighborhoods.

The day’s messages and activities further reinforced and celebrated the                unanimous June 30 Budget and Finance Committee vote in support of Councilmember Paul Koretz’ motion that calls for the City to renegotiate bad bank deals. The City spends more than $300 million in bank fees each year– double its annual Bureau of Street Services’ slashed budget.                            

In addition to the millions of taxpayer dollars being spent on Wall Street fees and deals, the City has also failed to enforce an ordinance that would collect fees and fines from banks and lenders who neglect vacant and foreclosed properties. This has resulted in City taxpayers having to foot the bill for over $200 million on maintenance costs a year for these properties– the total price tag exceeding more than $1 billion since 2008.  

Simboa Wright, a City wastewater division worker, said:                

“Every day I’m on the job, I’ve seen firsthand how the people with the least suffer the most. “The banks’ neglect becomes a magnet for illicit activity  that puts our kids at risk and lowers property values for other working families.” 

The SEIU Local 721 executive board member, who has participated in several volunteer clean-up efforts of cluttered alleyways and curbside garbage spilling from bank-owned homes with Fix LA community groups  added:  “Wall Street made this mess. They need to pay to clean it up.”                  

Wright also noted that in the wake of the economy crashing, workers with the Coalition of LA City Unions stepped up and  created tens of millions of dollars in cost savings for the City.