So the mayor is in for the fight of his political life, but it’s a fight worth having. The very future of L.A. rests on his being able to make this a city that works for all its residents.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Today marks one of the busiest travel days of the year, with millions returning home from their Thanksgiving vacations. And just in case the situation at Los Angeles International Airport won’t be harried enough, members of the city’s Engineers and Architects Association plan to go there to stage a large, noisy protest. Not exactly a sign that the union has the interest of ordinary Angelenos at heart, is it? Not exactly the way to go about winning friends and influencing public opinion, is it? This is the situation Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa now faces. Los Angeles’ public-employee unions have, for decades, grown accustomed to getting whatever they want, regardless of the overall effect on the health and wealth of the city. The results speak for themselves. L.A.’s municipal employees are the highest-paid in the nation, but our city services are among the worst. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Nonetheless, the city’s many unions are still clamoring for massive pay hikes, and who can blame them? Two months ago, workers at the Department of Water and Power – traditionally the best compensated in L.A. government – secured a deal that includes pay raises worth as much as 28 percent over the next five years. Now the architects and engineers – and most everyone else – want every bit as sweet a deal. Villaraigosa is a longtime champion of organized labor and public workers, but he realizes that the city has to get some value for the taxpayers’ money. “It would be irresponsible of me, as chief executive of this city, to provide a pay raise anywhere near what they’re asking for at a time when the city is facing a $248 million shortfall,” he says. So he has drawn a line in the sand. The city’s unions cannot continue to pretend as though they operate in a vacuum, as though their demands impose no real costs on the people of Los Angeles. He insists that they be realistic, mindful that if the city goes bankrupt, there won’t be municipal jobs for anyone. It won’t be easy, especially because it was Villaraigosa who ultimately signaled approval of the DWP pay raises. Legally, he says, he had no choice, but that argument will mean little to the unions who want an equally large piece of a shrinking fiscal pie.