Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa delicately sidestepped topics like stalled union negotiations, budget cuts and layoffs at Wednesday night's State of the City address, focusing instead on his administration's successes in public transportation, education and public safety.
It turns out that he was saving discussion of the dispute for an early morning interview on KTLA the next day, where he took aim at city worker unions for allegedly preferring layoffs to salary concessions. He also took issue with the city's retirement eligibility for 55-year-olds and health insurance plans at no cost to the worker, saying that the benefits were unsustainable and "not healthy."
"The vast majority of us are living until what, almost 80?" said Villaraigosa. "In the city you can retire at 55 -- that just doesn't work." Instead, the mayor proposed 67 as the new retirement age for all city workers.
A 2011 analysis of Census Bureau data showed that the average retirement age in America is 64 for men and 62 for women.
Additionally, while union workers recently started contributing their own money toward a pension, Villaraigosa wants it to extend to healthcare benefits. "Right now a city worker on Kaiser for a family pays nothing," the mayor stated. "Not a penny. It's not sustainable going forward."
On average, American workers pay $4,129 toward annual family coverage premiums, according to a 2011 Kaiser health benefits survey.
The mayor's most confrontational moment was when he accused the unions of prioritizing a five percent pay raise over hundreds of layoffs, which will be announced when Villaraigosa presents the city budget on Friday. The mayor is referring to pay raises in city worker contracts that are set to kick in this July.
Villaraigosa ripped the union, saying, "They've actually said to us, lay people off."
During the State of the City address in Paramount Studios, Hollywood, approximately 50 city workers protested the mayor and the pending city layoffs. Animal services worker Jake Miller told the Daily News, "We've given enough ... If the mayor was doing his job, we'd have a surplus, not a deficit."