The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

July 25, 2008
Kelso: Keep your chin up

Being the Governor of California isn't like being the general of an army. As the growing furor over Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's threat to temporarily chop state worker wages to $6.55 per hour illustrates, folks on the lower rungs can fight back or just ignore you.

I've posted an internal e-mail below that Federal Receiver J. Clark Kelso sent to all Prison Health Care staff. The State Worker hears that it was prompted by his concern that staff morale might take a hit, just as he is beginning to implement the turnaround plan to improve health care in California's 33 prisons.

Kelso "doesn't think it's appropriate" for state health care workers in the prison system to have to take time to run around applying for loans since "health care services in prison is a life or death, 24/7 job," e-mailed Luis Patino, spokesman for the Federal Prison Health Care Receivership.

"(Kelso) also feels that we can't restrict or control clinical services such as oncology which are life-or death services," Patino said. "And, he knows that there is a precedent of representatives of the Federal Court stepping in to override state hiring freezes and other personnel actions when they interfere with progress of remedial plans."

Here's the Kelso e-mail:

Dear California Prison Health Care Services Team Member,

    No doubt you have heard or read media reports about the Governor's proposed plan to ensure that the state maintains adequate cash flow by temporarily lowering state workers' salaries to the federal minimum wage of $6.55 per hour. You may have also heard or read conflicting reports from Controller John Chiang's office that he will continue to send state worker's their full paycheck.
    Exercising the power granted to him by the Federal Court to act as the Secretary of CDCR with respect to medical care matters, Federal Receiver, J. Clark Kelso, has decided that the overriding federal interests of the Receivership require that all employees who work for the Receiver shall be exempt from the executive order.
    This means that you will not see any changes in your pay as a result of the current budget crisis.
    Thank you for your continued hard work, professionalism and commitment to improving prison health care.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at


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