The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

March 23, 2009
Blog back: Federal minimum wage, 'filler,' and furloughs

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Note: Bee Cap Bureau colleague Andrew McIntosh will run The State Worker blog through Wednesday while we attend training sessions to expand our Web skills.

Mar. 13 Blog back: Ratification, rationale and raises

The judges (sic) ruling doesn't make sense. If a govenor wanted to abolish an elected officials (sic) office what's to stop him from saying "all of your employees are furloughed 7 days a week"?

From Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette's tentative ruling, which is now final:

... the Governor's power to order employee furloughs is not unlimited, but rather is controlled by law, and therefore cannot be exercised in an arbitrary or capricious manner.

In other words, the governor can't do things that interfere with the constitutionals' ability to carry out the duties of their offices. In the judge's view, furloughing workers two days each month doesn't cross that line.

I'm voting NO on everything. I've had it with politicians taking from us, yet they would not cut one of their own benefits or take a 10% paycut like many others have. So it's NO, NO, NO, NO. Until they get the message!!!

Shane Goldmacher, who runs our cousin Capitol Alert blog, reported last month that Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, said she would take a self-imposed 10 percent wage cut.

It seems the need for services has more than kept up with the growth in governement (sic) ... Although I'm not a state worker, I've been a round (sic) a lot of them and for the most part they are hardworking, caring and dedicated to providing the services to the people of CA ... Like any organization, you're going to find that percentage that give an organization a bad name, but they definitly (sic) don't deserve the abuse they get on some of these boards.

According to a Bee analysis of payroll data provided by the state controller, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation grew by 1,339 full-time positions from June 2008 through January of this year, more than any other department. (Some of the growth is from hires mandated by the federal receiver.) Meanwhile, the institutionalized population -- both in-state and out-of-state -- fell slightly:

June 30, 2008 -- 170,973
Jan. 31, 2009 -- 170,281

We bring this up not to pick on Corrections, but merely to point out that government's growth isn't always linked with a corresponding demand for services.

Mar. 16 Bowen waiting for furlough answers from Schwarzenegger

Reaction to this post revealed deep divisions among state workers over the furlough pass given constitutional officer employees:

Well Ms. Bowen, it must be sooo nice that "your" employees are part of the State Worker "aristocracy" and don't have to give up 10% of their pay like the rest of us do. Who was it?? Oh,yes, I'll paraphrase Leona Helmsley, "Only the little people state workers get furloughed." Indeed!!!

Another commenter made this assessment:

In light of the widening hole in the budget the constitutional officers need to implement the furlough. What can be saved today may mitigate the looming layoff that is coming, in my opinion ...

This blog user, catscan1, thinks the matter is clear-cut:

Why does she need to know how to proceed ? Other non constitutional offices started furloughs on Feb 6th. The DPA has the plan in place following the Gov's Executive order, get on the bandwagon & pay your share with the other 215,000 state employees.

That prompted this comment from someone who, apparently, works under a constitutional officer:

hey catscan1, you jealous? we'll never be furloughed!

Mar. 16 Schwarzenegger's office: Spending growing more slowly than before

Maybe they should develop a fact sheet on the rate of un-employment, the de-value of the housing market, the number of businesses leaving CA, the number of inmates, the inability to balance or have a timely budget, the rape of public servants, the number of appointments, the cost of his security that includes chp babysitting his kids, the corruption of his appointees, the murder rate, the cost of living, the number of tax payers who have left CA and anything else he has done.

It's tempting to blame the executive, be it at the state or federal level, for all of society's woes. Governors, like presidents, often shoulder a disproportionate amount of the criticism when things go poorly. Of course, they also tend to claim a disproportionate amount of the credit when things go well.

Mar. 19 Report: California not ready for wave of state worker retirements

Many users pointed out that recent moves by the governor -- furloughs, layoff warnings, the possibility that state wages could be slashed to the federal minimum during a budget impasse -- put the state at a disadvantage when it comes to hiring or retaining employees.

... And let's not forget the $6.55 an hour that is possibly down the road when the budget does not get enacted on time. The old-timers can't wait to leave and those joining State service these days should do so with their eyes open. Of course, it's better than no job at all, but that appears to be the best thing to be said about State service right now. And it's only going to get worse...
The younger workers (20-30 years old) at my agency are using State employment as a springboard to bigger and better things ... They do not consider the State to be a long-term employer and point to the low pay and lack of respect from their ultimate boss as reasons to get out fast.
The moment the economy turns and outside opportunities reappear there will be a stampede for the door. If not before. The State is earning a reputation as a terrible employer, an employer of last resort.
At my last agency I spent a lot of time interviewing bright and talented young people and trying to convince them to come work for us right out of grad school. It was nearly impossible for two reasons: (1) we couldn't navigate the byzantine hiring process before they got offered jobs in the private sector, and (2) the pay wasn't enough. So we tried to attract the best recruits by emphasizing job security and good retirement benefits, but now those things are being taken away, too.

Mar. 19 Read the court's decision in the $6.55 per hour state worker pay case

Let's see $6.55 per hour times 176 hours per month equals $1,152.80 gross. Or unemployment at $475 per week X 4 weeks per month equals $1,900.00. Hmmm ...

For the record: The federal minimum wage goes to $7.25 effective July 24.

Mar. 19 CalPERS calls out four companies for lackluster performance

John (sic)......I'm disappointed - this is filler. At least throw in one line about how or why we care. We trust CalPERS to protect our retirement. They do a good job ...

We're pleased to have set such high expectations for this blog. However, we disagree that the post has no news value. Nor do we think it necessary to spell out for state workers why decisions by their pension fund, one of the world's largest, are important to them.

Having said that, we recognize that not everyone will find every post of personal interest. We've put up nearly 500 items since launching The State Worker in July.

Mar. 20 The State Worker: Prison officers' suit calls furloughs an illegal pay cut

It's safe to say that nothing we write about draws as many comments as CCPOA. Last Thursday's column sparked debate over public employee unions:

It is time to get the unions out of government. It is also time to rethink what we send people to prison for, and for how long. The status quo is unsustainable.
... For those who think unions don't belong in Govt. you are really fooling yourself for without those unions no one would dare expose things that only those on the inside see.
Get rid of the damned unions. These guards are very much overpaid. If they were all fired their positions could be filled for half the pay they are getting.
Let me say first that I have worked for years in various CDCR prisons - as a doctor- and have seen firsthand how the guards take advantage of the system. They used to sit around playing cards or watching TV, and refuse to get up to help me get inmates (and I was being paid a lot of money to do nothing, essentially).
Most of the bashers wouldn't last five minutes doing the CO job. Good luck on your lawsuit.
The writ is posted on the CCPOA website at It will be in an Adobe PDF format. I am surprised that the Sacramento Bee did not attach it to this article.

We posted the documents on The State Worker blog at midnight and linked to the story. The first comment was posted at 2 a.m.

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.

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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