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Ron Kaye: Working for the union or fighting it

June 08, 2013
  • Ron Kaye
Ron Kaye

In Glendale, utility workers found their paychecks a little smaller last week — the price of the inability of their union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, to negotiate an initial contract two years after winning the right to represent them.

Down the road, Pasadena Water and Power workers are all steamed up over the city's resistance to giving in to their demands on terms for a new contract that would move them closer to matching the sweetheart deal enjoyed by their union brothers and sisters at the L.A. Department of Water and Power thanks to IBEW business manager Brian D'Arcy, the perfect model of a ruthless old-fashioned union boss.

Seen by many big shots as the "smartest and toughest guy at City Hall," D'Arcy is having an unusual run of bad luck.

He gambled millions of dollars of his member's money on getting a patsy elected L.A. mayor — an over-the-top play that backfired, made the union the target of negative ads and media criticism, and was widely blamed for the defeat of Wendy Greuel, who had the backing of nearly all of the city's business, labor and civic elite.


Now he faces contract talks with new L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti, who owes him no favors and will be emboldened to hold the line on wages and benefits at a time when the economic recovery remains fragile and ratepayers are being socked with a steady stream of big rate hikes.

All of those factors may have come together to convince D'Arcy — better known for making threats and obscene gestures to reporters than giving interviews — to sit down for a lengthy chat with L.A. Times columnist Patt Morrison, who produced a revealing Q & A last week in which the union boss, in typical fashion, blamed everyone else for what went wrong and deflected all responsibility for anything except to enrich the IBEW and its members.

Greuel's consultant was "tone deaf" and ran a "crappy campaign." His critics are the "right-wing apparatchiks" who see union workers as the "enemy." Utility workers have it hard because they have to deal with "pretty cranky people all day long" — you know, like the people who pay the bills for inflated salaries and benefits and expect good service.

"My responsibility is to look after the welfare of my members," D'Arcy declared.

Really? That's all?

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