Los Angeles Workers Flood Streets Protesting Predatory Bank Fees, Rising Share of Health Care Costs

Fix LA Protest

With their contracts expiring at midnight, city workers in Los Angeles flooded the streets around city hall in protest on Tuesday. Secretaries, 911 dispatchers, traffic controllers, sanitation workers and members of local community groups led by the Fix LA Coalition gathered to oppose predatory fees the city pays to Wall Street banks.  The city workers believe that money should be redirected to improve city services.  

As Marvel Hunter, a city tire repairman and member of the union bargaining team, told LA Now: “Our community has been devastated by austerity.  The money paid in the bond deals can be used to repair our streets and clean up our neighborhoods.”

Over the course of the recession the city has cut over 5,000 jobs.  Henry Gambill, Vice President of the Librarians’ Guild, drew uproarious applause during testimony before the city council when he said of the bank fees: “I don’t think it’s right that we’re giving away $300 million to Wall Street while I don’t have a children’s librarian for seven months.

The protests came just days after a report was released showing the city was losing more than $200 million a year in bank fees.  Protesters delivered a petition with over 4,300 signatures demanding the city renegotiate the deals.  

On Monday, the city council’s Budget and Finance Committee instructed the city attorney’s office to “evaluate” ways the city could avoid paying fees to the Bank of New York Mellon and Dexia for deals used to finance a waste water infrastructure project.  

The city is asking the unions to make pretty major concessions, namely a ten percent increase in health insurance premiums without pay raise.  In response, the unions are requesting renegotiation of the deals to increase staff.  As American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3090 President Alice Goff told City News Service:

The City Council needs to do more about all of the fees it is paying to Wall Street banks. If not for those fees, funds could be rerouted to services cut during the recession.

We are in negotiations but it’s not simply about worker wages.  We need enough staff to be able to provide necessary city services.”

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