The Public Sector Union Campaign to Own the Mayor of Los Angeles

One week from today in what is predicted to be a low-turnout election, voters will elect a new mayor to lead California’s largest city. Because the mayor manages the 47,000 employees of the City of Los Angeles, at least 47,000 voters employed by that city have a strong interest in who wins. But these workers will wield clout beyond their numbers, because no source of mayoral campaign contributions is anywhere close to those coming from unions representing Los Angeles city employees.

Here is a link to a graphic from the Los Angeles Times “Campaign contributions by special interest,” showing reported direct and independent expenditures on behalf of the two major candidates, Eric Garcetti and Wendy Gruel. Over $6.0 million has been spent by labor unions, more than twice as much as the next four largest categories of contributors. And that’s only partly why these unions are buying this election.

Using data from the LA Times graphic, we’ve come up with our own table, one that shows what percent of each contribution – by category – went to each candidate. This data illustrates an important fact: Union spending tends to be monolithic, favoring a particular candidate or party, whereas political spending from most other identifiable categories – usually lumped together as “business” – is split evenly. On the table below, it is evident that Wendy Gruel’s mayoral campaign has garnered 86% of the union campaign contributions. But nearly every other interest group has split their campaign spending almost equally between the candidates.

This data offers additional support to the theory that political contributions from individuals and businesses tend to be diverse, usually focused on narrow issues of particular importance to each contributor, and balanced between candidates and parties. But public sector unions have a unified agenda that never deviates: More pay and benefits for public sector workers, and more public sector workers. And the rhetoric is always compelling, even if the agenda is pure self-interest. For public safety. For the children.

Take a look at this partial list of  labor endorsements for Wendy Gruel:

Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL)
United Firefighters of Los Angeles City (UFLAC) Local 112
Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs
Los Angeles Fire Chief Officers’ Association
Professional Peace Officers Association (PPOA)
Law Enforcement Association of Asian Pacifics (LEAAP)
Los Angeles County Firefighters Local 1014
Los Angeles School Police Officers Association (LASPOA)
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1277
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Workers (AFSCME) District Council 36
AFSCME United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP)
AFSCME Local 1902
Los Angeles County Federation of Labor
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721
SEIU 121RN, Southern California Nurses
SEIU 721
SEIU United Long Term Care Workers (ULTCW) 

The common thread that runs through these union endorsements, in most cases, is the fact that taxpayers are footing the bill for the pay and benefits for the government workers they represent (and, of course, the dues they pay to their unions). And the common fallacy that informs the agenda of these unions is that somehow it is economically feasible to pay over-market wages and benefits to public sector workers, and, by extension, to all workers. Witness Gruel’s latest campaign pledge, calculated to boost her support among Latino voters.

As reported in the Los Angeles Daily News, on May 13 “Eric Garcetti criticizes union mailers promising wage hike if Wendy Greuel is elected L.A. mayor:”

“Campaign mailers sent to Latino voters promising a hike in the $8 minimum wage if Wendy Greuel is elected are sparking controversy in the Los Angeles mayor’s race. Two mailers, sent by an outside committee supported by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor that represents 600,000 union workers and supports Greuel, were sent in Spanish and English last week. The mailers suggest the minimum wage, currently $8 an hour, will be hiked under a Greuel administration. Voters go to the polls in one week. ‘On May 21, our votes will elect la Wendy and raise the minimum wage for housekeepers and cooks and dishwashers to $15 per hour,’ reads one mailer.”

Gruel is invited to explain exactly how she expects the small businesses in Los Angeles will adapt to a nearly doubling of the minimum wage. But other promises she’s made will be harder to break. When special interests split their money between candidates, as our chart above proves is the case in the 2013 Los Angeles mayoral race, it is relatively easy for a victorious candidate to do the right thing. After all, whoever’s toes are being stepped on was giving just as much money to the candidate that lost. But the public sector unions gave 86% of their money to Gruel, and if she wins, it will be because of them. They will own her.

Wendy Gruel may or may not win next Tuesday. The race is a dead heat, perhaps because voters are finally realizing that public sector union endorsements and money are not given in the public interest, but in the public sector worker’s interest. Either way, however, this campaign is a replay of a political dynamic that has, over the past 20 years, turned California into a state where most local governments and agencies are run by the government employee unions, who own the politicians who are supposedly authorized to manage them.

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UnionWatch is edited by Ed Ring, who can be reached at

12 replies
  1. Tough Love says:

    Quoting …”But public sector unions have a unified agenda that never deviates: More pay and benefits for public sector workers, and more public sector workers. And the rhetoric is always compelling, even if the agenda is pure self-interest. ”

    It becomes CLEARER every day ….. Public Sector Unions are a CANCER on Society and need to be outlawed.

    A first strep should be to END all Public Sector Collective bargaining and Dues collection.

  2. Guess Who says:

    Tough Love –

    You are so right! The public sector unions should not have the same constitutional rights as everybody else. What were the founders of the country thinking by allowing such “CANCER on Society” to exist? I mean, if you don’t agree with someone’s view, you should be able to “END all Public Sector Collective bargaining and Dues collection”. We are so fortunate, blessed, I mean blessed, to have someone of such profound intellect as Tough Love to guide us on the proper dismantling of basic freedoms set aside in – what amounts to really old worthless documents. And to think, we have Ed Ring to thank for coming up with such worthwhile articles. We are truly blessed.

    Ed – not expecting you to post this.

  3. Editor says:

    Guess Who: Of course your comment is welcome here. It would be helpful if you might (1) explain any flaws in the logic of this editorial, or (2) refute the premise underlying both the editorial and Tough Love’s comment, which is that public sector unions have a unique agenda, and unique advantages, which makes it necessary to regulate them in ways more restrictive than what might be sufficient in the private sector.

  4. Guess Who says:

    “refute the premise underlying both the editorial and Tough Love’s comment”

    I do not see the need to refute the underlying bla bla. It is self evident, and only a neo-conservative wack job would think that the “public sector unions have a unique agenda, and unique advantages, which makes it necessary to regulate them in ways more restrictive than what might be sufficient in the private sector” while not addressing the fact that big corporates have even more power, more unique advantages – yet they can give $ until they have impoverished an entire nation. There was a time that you were a bit more balanced, but selling out to become more ‘mainstream’ in the “public employees are evil” movement has sent you over the edge to where Tough Love and his ilk exist. Enjoy it there – I am just stopping by for my every 6 month or so rant against the lunacy in my own ‘pithy’ way.

  5. Tough Love says:

    Dear Guess who, Gee, who would have known that our “Constitution” stated that Public Sector workers should have Collective bargaining and Dues collection rights.

    Oh, and it’s also a “basic freedom” ….. must be in the Bill of Rights as well !

  6. Guess Who says:

    Tough Love –

    It is called assembly. Maybe you should educate yourself, and quit using multiple screen names (us citizen is an example). But we can’t expect much from a terminated cop from NJ working to rob those who did not ruin their own careers! Right?

  7. Tough Love says:

    Quoting Guess WHO …” It is self evident, and only a neo-conservative wack job would think that the “public sector unions have a unique agenda, and unique advantages,….”

    Let me just mention a single example (of the hundreds of examples) from California …

    One Union recently sued, SPECIFICALLY challenging a new law aimed at preventing unjust end-of-career pay spiking to goose their pensions … basically arguing that since it’s always been that way, then future retires should be able to do so as well.

    Now is it just me, or do other also see a Union “agenda” in actions like this ?

    Is there no limit to their insatiable greed ?

  8. Tough Love says:

    That’s pretty funny … you think I was a police officer. No, a career in financial service.

  9. Guess Who says:

    Tough Love –

    There should be no end of career spiking. Next?

    In addition I did not address anything about that in my post to you, just your usual gasbag ‘unions are a cancer’ stuff.

    Again – next.

  10. Tough Love says:

    Dear Guess Who, Ok. you want another example of Public Sector Union abuses ….

    Public Sector DB pensions are based on a Formula Factor per year of service (e.g.,2-3%), years of service, and final average “pensionable compensation”.

    In that formula, the average may be 3 years, but (especially for safety workers) it is often one year. Pensionable pay may (but does not always) include overtime, vacation and sick day cash-outs, etc.

    A few years back in Allentown Pa, where overtime IS included in pensionable compensation, a variety of lawsuits were active between the police and the city. Well, because the mayor was over-his-head when it came to pensions issues (i.e., incompetent) and as part of a settlement of all lawsuits, he agreed via a MOA to allow for a limited period of about 6 months for any officer eligible to retire to base their pensionable compensation on the highest SINGLE MONTH.

    Of course, while he was clueless, there must have been one heck of a party in that Union office, as every eligible officer in the city almost doubled their pay (via overtime) for a single month and then put in their retirement papers, with most eligible for starting pensions well in excess of the the full pay.

    Sure, some would say tough luck, it’s all legal and the mayor was representing the City in these negotiations. Well, that Union and especially the individual officers (some of whom evenlived in the City) who participated in this should be proud of how they “Protect and Serve” the Citizens of Allentown Pa. More accurately, they actively seized the opportunity to hoodwink an incompetent and screw the Taxpayers of the City.

    They should be proud !

  11. Guess Who says:

    Again, spiking should not be allowed – NEXT.

    That said, elected officials exchanged pay raises (that had to be paid at that time) for promised pension benefits that would be due long after they left office. Is it the employees fault that these officials, elected by the public, are corrupt and stupid? Electing corrupt/stupid politicians has consequences for the public that elected them. These people need to wise up and vote a tad better – rather than blame some employee. I’m fairly sure you would agree that elections have consequences and that the public should be held responsible for who they elect…?

    I mean, in your state, you elected Chris Cristie. Who are you going to blame when the last donut is gone – some public employee!!!???? A cop no doubt.

  12. Tough Love says:

    Dear Guess Who, Next again ?

    I’m glad you are asking for a forum for me to exhibit the misdeeds of Public Sector Unions … which are endless in number.

    Try this one. Go to and play the 3-rd video down on the right side, titled SEIU Threat.

    Listen to a direct threat from this Union mouthpiece to a governmental body. To bad they don’t tar and feather people any longer.

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