The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Secret Recording Exposes the Rot in L.A. Politics

Oct 24, 2022

In October 2021, a secret recording was made of a closed-door meeting among three L.A. City Council members: Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, and a top union official, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor president Ron Herrera. One year later, the recording was leaked to the news media. This provoked such a public firestorm that even President Biden weighed in.

But while most of the news media simply condemned the racist insults, xenophobia and homophobia, what went largely ignored was how these officials were using prejudice and ethnic identity in order to amass more power for themselves … at the expense of their own constituents.

The subject of the closed-door meeting was to form a “Latino” bloc to control the redistricting of the 15-member city council that takes place every 10 years. The city council has final say over its own redistricting, and the stakes of who gets what are very high. Ambitious politicians climbing the government ladder need plenty of access to the rich and powerful. And that’s what they get when their district includes major business hubs and other so-called “assets,” like real estate developments, airports, harbors and sports arenas.

Nury Martinez, for example, who was president of the city council during this latest redistricting, made sure that “you’re not just going to create poor Latino districts with nothing,” as she said on the recording. Instead, Martinez redrew her district so it includes a large airport for private planes, said to be worth over two billion dollars, along with a large recreation area slated for development into an important venue for the 2028 Olympics.

These Latino politicians, who came up through L.A.’s union apparatuses and immigrant rights organizations, advertise themselves as being “progressive,” pro-worker, pro-immigrant and anti-racist. But, in reality, they loyally serve the capitalist class, giving the capitalists free rein to plunder the city and the people. They fork over big tax breaks and zoning changes to help the capitalists make super-profits out of the construction boom of big luxury apartment and commercial complexes and hotels, a construction boom that destroys poor and working-class neighborhoods all over the city, displacing tens of thousands of people.

This gentrification is one big reason that Los Angeles has become unlivable for big parts of the population. Rent is so high that most families have to spend more than half their income on it. And workers get lodging that is so horrible, Los Angeles is rated as the most overcrowded city in the country.

After the recording was leaked, the president of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor was forced to resign almost immediately, not just because he joined in on all the racist and prejudiced diatribes that insulted his own members, but because the recording exposed the real role of the Federation of Labor. The Federation of Labor is always called “powerful,” because it boasts 345 affiliates with more than 800,000 members. But what they mean by “power” doesn’t include the organization of the workers to fight and protect their own interests. Instead, the union apparatuses are used to help fund and organize support for their favorite candidates in the Democratic Party. In other words, the union machines are completely integrated into the Democratic Party, which itself is a puppet of the same capitalists who exploit the workers.

In fact, all the scandal revealed is just how rotten big city politics is from top to bottom. As former Los Angeles councilmember and former police chief Bernard Parks said, “I suspect you had very similar conversations in 2012 [10 years before], it’s just nobody taped them.”