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Council to Battle Secessionists

Los Angeles — AFSCME Council 36, representing 8,000 city employees, is preparing to launch a major campaign this fall to persuade voters to oppose the secession of the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood from Los Angeles.

In May, secession supporters won their six-year campaign to place the question on the Nov. 5 ballot. For members of AFSCME and other unions representing municipal employees, the election is critical. Likely consequences of secession include the re-negotiation of hard-won contracts, the loss of jobs, privatization and the uncertainty over the protection of members' pensions.

Being forced to re-negotiate contracts in the midst of an economic downturn "would be a disaster," says Alice Goff, president of Local 3090, which represents about 5,000 clerical and supervisory services employees. Secession backers say breaking off the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood from L.A. would create more efficient and responsive local governments.

As evidence, unions point out that the founder of the secession movement, auto dealer Bert Boechmann, was found guilty of unfair labor practices by the National Labor Relations Board after firing three of his auto salesmen for attending a union meeting.

Council 36's executive board voted in June to make fighting secession their No. 1 priority for the November elections. A committee made up of local leaders from throughout the union will coordinate a member-to-member campaign that includes making phone calls and walking precincts. In August, the council joined with other unions, including firefighters, in a labor picnic to raise public awareness of the need to save community services from being ripped up.

Delegates to AFSCME's 35th Convention in June approved a resolution to oppose secession. It urged all AFSCME members to "tell their family and friends who are eligible to vote in the City of Los Angeles, including the Valley and Hollywood, to learn the truth, get the facts and then vote NO on secession." 

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