The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

September 25, 2009
Columbus Day showdown coming to state workplaces

It's been brewing for weeks, but the battle between state workers and the Schwarzenegger administration over the Columbus Day holiday (or not) appears to now be fully joined.

Earlier this month, SEIU Local 1000 filed a grievance and the California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges, and Hearing Officers in State Employment filed a lawsuit disputing the administration's contention that Columbus Day (Oct. 12 this year) and Lincoln's Birthday (Feb. 12) are no longer paid holidays for state workers.

On Friday, SEIU President Yvonne Walker flatly told members: "October 12, 2009, is a holiday and employees should not come to work."

Schwarzenegger's Department of Personnel Administration is just as adamant: The day is not a paid holiday and those workers who take it off will be docked pay and face disciplinary action. If you want the day off, DPA spokeswoman Lynelle Jolley said Friday, schedule it with your supervisor and use leave credit.

The union acknowledges that lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger changed state law to eliminate Columbus Day and Lincoln's Birthday as paid holidays.

In subsequent contract negotiations, SEIU and the administration agreed to eliminate the holidays and give state workers two personal holidays instead.

But lawmakers never ratified the new contract, and the union believes the old (expired) pact remains in force -- with the two holidays.

Jolley says the administration disagrees: "The fact that the Legislature didn't ratify the contract means (state employees) don't get the two personal holidays. It doesn't mean they still get Columbus Day."

Both sides have posted their positions on their Web sites:

DPA's is here.

SEIU's is 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


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