The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 11, 2008
Column extra: More from Redding and Orange County

As the economy continues hammering California, we've been tracking the interplay between government at all levels and public employee unions around the state to see whether any trends are emerging.

As our column noted today, layoff talk has exposed the limits of union power. Some labor groups have made concessions and others, hoping save jobs and to soften losses to their members, have offered some.

Some updates in the news since yesterday, when we wrote the State Worker column:

From the Redding Record Searchlight:

In a bid to lop $3.1 million, or 4 percent from the city's general fund budget, Redding officials Wednesday proposed laying off 14 employees - including three firefighters. ...

Ian Arnold is a field representative for Service Employees International Union Local 1021 (SEIU), the city's largest union. Arnold said his members could not accept such a major concession if the city could not guarantee the savings would protect jobs and essential public services. But the union is willing to sit down with city negotiators to discuss other ways to save money, he said.

"We are fully aware this is the worst budget crisis that the state of California has faced since the Great Depression, and we are willing to roll up our sleeves to help mitigate the damage," Arnold said.

"But we want to know that if SEIU members come up with $1 million worth of savings, that million would be applied to protecting SEIU jobs," said Arnold. "Members are not willing to sacrifice to protect unrepresented managers."

Click here for the entire story.

Orange County is going ahead with layoffs and furloughs, despite a recent union proposal to take furloughs over the holidays, according to this LA Times story:

Officials in cash-strapped Orange County have ordered the deepest cuts in staffing in years, saying they'll lay off 210 social services workers and force 4,000 other employees to take two weeks off without pay. ...

The planned job reductions in Orange County were announced during a tense meeting of county and union officials Wednesday afternoon in Santa Ana. All of the planned cutbacks were in the Social Services Agency, the result of an expected $20-million reduction in state funding.

...

Enraged union officials suggested that the county look elsewhere to save money, suggesting it cut perks for executives and managers -- including car allowances and enhanced retirement benefits -- before forcing layoffs and unpaid days off.

"If they don't step up and show good faith by taking away those perks, this is going to get very ugly, very fast," said Nick Berardino, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, the county's largest union.

Last week, concerned about possible layoffs, Berardino proposed that all county employees voluntarily take unpaid leave during the holidays to help avoid job cuts. He said the union would probably file a lawsuit if the county forces workers to take time off without pay.

"The people that are here are crying. The anger level is beyond anything I've ever seen," Berardino said.

You can read the entire LAT piece here.

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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 jortiz@sacbee.com.

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