The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

August 17, 2009
State workers: 'I am beyond scared' and 'We'll manage'

We get hundreds of e-mails each week. These two from state workers Trish Terrell and Jake Johnson, however, stood out for their brevity, clarity and thoughtfulness.

Both writers agreed to allow us to post their words here, unedited. They speak for themselves, not their employers.

Click the link below to read the e-mails.

Dear Mr. Ortiz,

I read your article today and I just wanted to mention a little something about these furloughs.

Do you have any idea what it is like for an Office Assistant to lose this kind of pay? Let me tell you a little bit about it.

When we were hit with 2 days, I was upset and a little scared. BUT, I survived, doing my part, as all state employees have, to save money.

Now we are at 3 days, and I am beyond scared. I am in a battle. My rent alone is 900.00 I have a loan out that is deducted from my pay each month. The credit union extended the loan for a year and the payment dropped 40 dollars. It helps but my net pay for July was 1,508 and change. This is what I can look forward to for the next year. I live alone. I have no one to go to for help.

Our union has given me the names of food banks. I plan to use them. My car insurance will lapse 9-1 because I cannot pay it.

This is only the first month of the 3 day furlough pay. As the months go on, I will go deeper in to debt and lose my place, ruin my credit and have to live as a room mate, if I can afford to.

So, let the governor sue and appeal and throw his power around when we here at SCIF don't save him a dime.

What I'd really like him to do is come live in my apartment on my pay for a month and then decide whether or not this is the right thing to do.

I know we all have to make sacrifices. I thought we had with 2 furlough days. This is just a bit too much.

I was going to e mail from work but I don't know how happy they'd be about that, but I want you to know that I am an employee of the state. That this is my reality. And that it stinks!

Thank you,

Trish Terrell
OCPS Reception

From: Jake Johnson
Sent: Monday, July 06, 2009 7:39 AM
To: Ortiz, Jon - Sacramento
Subject: Brief Summary of My Story


You and I have corresponded a few times (Twitter). I enjoy reading your work, and appreciate your efforts to tell all sides of the story. Here's a brief summary of how the furloughs and down economy are affecting my family and me. I don't know that its worthy of telling the world, or even the region, but it may prove a moderately interesting read for you.

I'm currently working for the Franchise Tax Board, Information Security Section, as a Senior Information Systems Analyst. I transferred recently, from the Department of Finance. I'm legally blind, and I have a degree in English. I love my job, and I know I'm fortunate to have it. It pays pretty well. My wife had to leave her job as a publications coordinator in March of this year, about the same time the furloughs for state employees started. The furloughs alone wouldn't have hurt us too much. We bought our house in 2007, but we didn't buy at the top of our range. With my wife receiving unemployment benefits, and a third furlough day, we will be struggling. I'm sure we'll manage, though. If anything, we have learned how empowering it can be to take real control over our finances.

I have over eight years of state service time, so I don't think I need to worry about lay-offs. My wife looks for work every day. It's rough out there, but we know the bad job market won't last for ever. My family is healthy. We have each other, and our three spoiled cats. It's unlikely that we would lose our home, but even if we did, we would still have the things that matter in life.

Thanks for reading,


Thanks to both Trish and Jake for sharing their stories.

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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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