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LA pension petition signatures at issue

Nov. 20, 2012 at 7:51 PM

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- A Los Angeles public employees union said it has disciplined a staffer for urging members to falsify a petition to bring a pension initiative to referendum.

Former Mayor Richard Riordan has been circulating the petition to eliminate taxpayer-funded pensions for new city employees, who instead would be permitted to enroll in a 401(k)-type plan, and increase the contributions of current municipal employees to their pension plans. The petition needs to gather about 265,000 signatures by the end of December to qualify for a public vote in 2013.

Riordan says the change is necessary to prevent Los Angeles from going bankrupt.

Service Employees International Union Local 721 released a statement acknowledging one of its organizers, Paul Kim, sent an email last week urging union members to sign the petition "with fake names/addresses," the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

"We are firmly against that kind of behavior," SEIU 721 spokesman Ian Thompson said. "The email in question was sent without the knowledge of the union's leadership. The person who sent the email has been disciplined for his action."

Thompson said the email was "not an official union communication" and likely did not reach many members.

A spokesman for Riordan said the petitions may already have "thousands of fake signatures."

"They have now contaminated them," spokesman John Schwada said. "It's not sufficient for SEIU to just say we're going to discipline this guy. We need to find who may have acted on his instructions, and how many people received that email."

Thompson said Riordan's proposal "would strip middle-class city workers of retirement security." He said it was being funded by "billionaires and millionaires to make them richer, while hurting LA and the people who keep it running."

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