Marleen Fonseca Has EAA and City of L.A. Marching into the Future Together

Relationship with IBEW 11 ensures united front

By Jeremy Kehoe

From LAX to the L.A. Zoo, more than 6,000 Engineers & Architects Association (EAA) brothers and sisters deliver critical services across 40 City of Los Angeles departments that directly impact the lives of millions of Angelenos every day.

Since 2021 Executive Director Marleen Fonseca has been at the helm of EAA, organizing its diverse crew of dedicated public servants and orchestrating the scores of data-driven and on-the ground solutions they deliver on issues from easing homelessness and increasing water safety to managing employee payrolls and improving public transportation.

Fonseca recently sat down with News@11 where she discussed the ongoing impact of EAA’s growth through its recent partnership with IBEW 11, outlined EAA’s top-priority initiatives for 2024, shared her optimism for EAA’s future, and detailed plans to add even greater value-add services to union members.

Before we look ahead, let’s look back. EAA membership has grown by almost 1,000 since you became Executive Director in 2021. What were some of the most important contributors to that growth?

One of the keys to EAA’s growth has been our constant commitment to embracing technology and integrating it into every facet of our operation. We’re always working to update our technology capabilities to better communicate with members, build a more informative and user-friendly website, and make the overall membership experience better by making sure we’re offering the services that will benefit our members most.

One example was that we developed a member-development program to train employees – as many as 300 at a time online – to help them pass specific promotional exams offered by the City. Another example is that we were able to enhance our members’ benefit package, so every dues-paying member now has union-sponsored life insurance, along with free legal services. None of this was in place before.

How has EAA’s affiliation with IBEW 11 grown during this same time?

I’ve seen this relationship grow and develop since EAA affiliated with IBEW 11 in 2013. It’s a true partnership. We go to them for resources we might need, and vice versa. There’s a lot of collaboration. Sometimes, I can help an IBEW 11 business agent get together to start building a relationship with a City Department manager, for example. And, IBEW, in turn, helps EAA by providing us access to resources like training staff, and building our organizing abilities to help us organize the unrepresented city employees.

EAA members serve in more than 40 City of Los Angeles agencies. Just how integral a role do EAA members play in the day-to-day functioning of City programs and services?

EAA members in the City serve as entry-level, mid-level, and high-level management. They are really the nuts and bolts of the City. If the City Council needs an analysis and a report, it’s going to be EAA members performing that analysis, doing that research, and most likely presenting that report back to the Council. The entire IT structure of the City is reliant on EAA members because EAA represents every class of IT employees.

In every Department, anything that has to do with an employee or vendor getting paid appropriately and on time, there is an EAA member behind that. A lot of what the City relies on to function and thrive every day relies on the work of EAA members. We, as a union, really know the City from the inside out – from the policies to the onboarding to the charter, to finding the right provision in the administration code. All EAA representatives are well-versed and have extensive City and labor experience.

How has the relationship between the City of Los Angeles and EAA evolved over the last few years?

EAA members are a professional group of employees, and the City recognizes that, and they also recognize that the union works in a professional manner to make it a better experience for employees and the City. We really collaborate with the City on a whole range of programs. As EAA members we’re always working to make sure the City understands our value, and the more that we continue to come together, the more our union continues to grow. The City recognizes EAA’s value.

Are you optimistic about the future of EAA and its relationship with the City and its partnership with IBEW?

I am. Everything feels like it’s headed on the right track. We have a great relationship with almost every general manager in the City and the leadership in the City. I know I can call them, and they know they can call me. I see this relationship going nowhere but in a positive direction. Our allies on the City Council continue to grow, and we’re continuing to expand our membership. Things are headed in the right direction. I’m smiling right now.

Finally, is there anything you want people to know about EAA that might surprise them?

One of the challenges at EAA is that our membership is so spread out in so many different parts of the City that they don’t always get a chance to interact with each other. Union members want to socialize, so we’re now participating in Union Night at Dodgers Stadium, which we hadn’t done before, but we’re regulars now. We give tickets to members (and their guests) and provide the members with a custom EAA baseball jersey. It’s become a hit!

We also now have wellness events like our 5K runs and walks, because just getting out is so important for our members’ mental wellbeing. EAA members all perform such different tasks, and they’re all such essential employees in the City. So, bringing them together is important.

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