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Union Worker to Steve Lopez: We’ve Picked Up the Tab!





(Art Sweatman is a City of Los Angeles tree surgeon. His post is a response to Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez’s April 24 article, “Time for public employee unions to pick up the tab.” The post first appeared on SEIU Local 721’s site and is republished here with permission.)

Dear Steve:

I sat down with you a couple of years ago and discussed the impact that “givebacks” would have on our SEIU 721 members who work for the City of Los Angeles.

You seemed to care then, and city workers eventually agreed to help L.A. save money. One year later we also agreed to contribute more towards our pension benefits, so we could keep our spouses on our benefits after we retire.

Your commentary is short-sighted. You acknowledge but ignore the fact that the politicians keep lying about the city’s deficit. City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana keeps yelling that “the sky is falling,” yet it hasn’t.

You also ignore the city’s hundreds of millions in uncollected debt, and the fact that it has not even considered renegotiating the over $2 billion L.A. pays out to private contractors.

You are an excellent and respected writer, but you need to remember that the city’s main responsibility is to use its public funds to provide services to L.A.’s residents and visitors. City workers are the ones who provide those services and we have been responsible by giving back to help the city.

Comparing us to workers in the private sector implies that the private sector has not been responsible for the overall decrease in the middle class. Open your eyes, Steve — it has. That is, unless your vision of this country looks like Walmart’s workforce.

Art Sweatman,
L.A. City Tree Surgeon

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