LA County frontline employees demand wage increase to fight high inflation

Frontline workers from various public sector unions throughout LA County – including AFSCME District Council 36 – demanded cost-of-living increases to fight inflation at a press conference on Tuesday held outside a Shell gas station in Chinatown near downtown LA, where prices at the pump were as high as $6.94 a gallon.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Tuesday that the consumer price index leaped 8.5 percent in March, which is the highest it has been since January of 1982. With wages remaining the same, Los Angeles County workers have been massively affected by the rise in prices of necessities, such as gas and food. The six County employees that shared their stories at the press conference, spoke about having to make difficult life decisions because of the high inflation rate and stagnant wages. “It’s getting to the point where workers can’t even afford to put gas in their car to get to work,” said David Green, President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 721.

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 685 member and Deputy Probation Officer Mike Davis spoke about having to spend more of his paycheck on necessities but with the same household budget. “This economy has really affected us,” said Davis. “The cost of living has continued to rise, and we continue to stay at the same salary, the same money everyday to try and make a living.”

Deric Horton, a medical casework II and SEIU Local 721 member, became visibly emotional while speaking about the tough decisions his family has had to make to survive in this economy. “Let’s just take the price of groceries. Last month groceries were at a 14 percent increase… 14 percent,” said Horton. “I have two children… when you find yourself making decisions like you can’t go to ballet anymore, or hey you can’t play football anymore, because we have to make sure that we prioritize getting to work and getting gas, so that you can have clothes on your back, shoes on your feet, and food in your mouth. Those are the decisions that we have to make.”

The 15 Unions representing over 85,000 County employees are currently bargaining with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for a significant wage increase, to help relieve some of the pressure they have been feeling from the increase in prices of goods. “How will our elected leaders respond to this inflation crisis? Will they let workers continue to bear the brunt or will they adjust wages to keep pace with historically high price increases?” said Green. Thus far, the wage increases proposed by the Board of Supervisors have not been significant enough to combat the inflation rate. SEIU Local 721 is planning on holding a strike vote beginning next week.