Opportunity for the DWP

The Department of Water and Power (DWP) is a sorely mismanaged local agency. In fact, its employees receive special treatment, at a high cost that comes straight out of the users’ pockets.

Negotiations are now underway between the union and the city on a new collective bargaining agreement, since the current contract expires in the fall of 2014. This is a good opportunity to introduce compensation parity between these employees and their counterparts elsewhere in the city’s public sector. There is no reason why DWP wages and benefits should be so much higher than those of other Los Angeles employees or of their DWP colleagues in other jurisdictions.

Labor talks opened on Friday with the first internal meeting of the city’s negotiators. Yet political debate over the DWP labor situation is nothing new. At the height of its intensity, during the recent mayoral election, the union placed all its bets and money on Mayor Garcetti’s rival, Wendy Greuel, in hopes of improving its negotiating position.

The election result, in part, meant that Angelinos are increasingly willing to confront the union. The council members, now targeted by the DWP union’s lobby campaign, need to realize that an election was held and the voters spoke.

Moreover, The Los Angeles Times‘ disclosure of the DWP’s abusive sick-pay policy is exemplary of the agency’s contractual permissiveness, revealing an administration incapable of holding its own against a small group of employees who are exploiting the situation. It would be a serious error to confuse a few opportunists with a labor force committed to their job.

Our city has an opportunity to move the DWP in the right direction, bring the agency in line with today’s fiscal realities and improve its operations.