LOS ANGELES — The head of the AFL-CIO defended public union pay and benefits Friday and urged private-sector workers to unite with public employees to confront the nation's "job-cutters."
"Some people see public employees as an island of privilege," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said at a City Hall rally in support of transportation projects. "Here's the truth: When public employees and union workers everywhere negotiate decent pay and decent benefits, well then, all of us get lifted up with that. Every worker in America gets a chance at a better deal."
He called on private-sector and public employees "to come together and face the job-cutters."
"We need each other. We're stronger together," Trumka said.
The remarks by the labor chief come at a time when public union salaries and benefits, particularly pensions, have been under scrutiny in economically troubled California.
State and local officials have been under pressure to bring more transparency to government compensation since disclosures that the small city of Bell, a Los Angeles suburb, was paying its chief administrative officer more than $1.5 million a year in salary and benefits. In addition, the police chief made more than his counterpart in Los Angeles, and the mayor and three City Council members were earning about $100,000 a year for part-time work.
Trumka didn't allude to the Bell salaries, which are under investigation by the state controller, the state attorney general and the county district attorney.
Trumka said union workers are building the middle class, not living lavishly. Addressing a throng of union employees outside City Hall, he said public employees are "the only ones standing in the way of a Republican-driven, all-out race-to-the-bottom, a deeper and deeper hole."