The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

May 7, 2009
SEIU official takes aim at Niello, questions his actions on contract bill

Lynn Vilain, a ranking SEIU district official, took aim at Assemblyman Roger Niello, R-Fair Oaks, in an email she fired off this week.

She wrote the missive after Niello led efforts to delay passing a bill needed to enshrine the SEIU' s new collective agreement with the Schwarzenegger administration.

In a post this week, we told you how Niello urged fellow Assembly members to defeat or abstain from voting on the bill, AB 964, until after the special election.

Niello said he wanted to see whether voters would pass or defeat the six special election measures later this month that aim to cut the state' budget gap, adding that legislators would have a better grasp of the state's finances by then.

Vilain is an SEIU Local 1000 district official and was one of the folks on the ground charged with selling the contract to state workers.

Here's her email, unedited:

Assemblymember Niello,

You seemed to take great pride in defeating the state employees' contract bill that we negotiated in good faith with the state. You indicated in the Sacramento Bee article that it should wait until after the special election to see what the state's finances are.  The article in the Bee stated that you feel the bill can wait until June or after.


Most of us who took state jobs knew we weren't going to make a lot of money but we took the jobs for the security.  Now we don't even have the security.  Many of us can't wait until June or after to get the contract passed.  Each month that goes by we get a 10% pay cut instead of a 5% pay cut.  Many of us were struggling before the furloughs.  Our pay increases haven't kept up with increases in the cost of living.  Everything has gotten more expensive (food, gas, rent, etc).  Then we were furloughed 2 days a month which amounted to roughly a 10% salary cut.  For me that was about $300 a month net loss in my salary.


I went out and sold the contract to my members.  I told them that we bargained it with DPA who was negotiating on behalf of the governor.  I told them that if we ratified it then it would be ratified by the legislature and signed by the Governor.  I didn't like everything in this contract, but when I looked at the big picture I thought we were making the best of a bad situation.  The amount that I personally would be losing would drop from approximately $300 a month to approximately $150 a month.  To someone making $116,000 a year that may not seem like a lot, but to me and many others like me that can make the world of difference.


Some of my members are having trouble paying their daily living expenses.  They are struggling with rent, utilities, gas, food, etc.  I myself have chronic health conditions which cause my medical expenses to be higher than that of most people.  As a result of these conditions I take several medications but I have found myself unable to afford all of my prescriptions some months.  I have to decide which medications I can cut down or cut out.  I have changed some of my prescriptions, even those that I have been taking for many years.


I understand that you declined to take your December 2007 raise but most of your colleagues who voted No have not declined to take their raise.  Why haven't you all taken a 10% pay cut like the rest of us have?  You are state employees, even if you were elected.  Your paycheck comes from the State Controller, too.    According to the latest list in the Sac Bee only Ira Ruskin and Joan Buchanan are taking a 10% pay cut while Ted Gaines is taking a 7.75% pay cut.  In the Senate Dave Cox is taking a 5% pay cut.


We are all being furloughed whether our salaries come out of the general fund or not.  I work for a department that is primarily federally funded.  The Department of Labor has already told the Governor that they cannot use our salary savings for the general fund.  In addition my branch is revenue producing.  So why are we being furloughed?   If we have to take a pay cut then every member of the Assembly and the Senate should reduce their pay also.  All it takes is a letter to the State Controller to make it happen.


When I went to the websites of the Assembly Members who voted No most of them say that you fight to protect working families.  Every state employee represents a working family. Why are you not fighting to protect our working families?


Lynn Vilain

DLC 706 Secretary/Treasurer

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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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