We spoke this morning to Yvonne Walker, president of SEIU Local 1000 about the Legislature's failure to pass AB 88, the measure that contains the terms of the tentative agreement (read it here) that the union negotiated with the Schwarzenegger administration in February. As we reported earlier, in this post, the measure stalled on the Senate floor last week.
Walker has said that the contract's concessions would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars in employee costs. But the governor's office has signaled he would veto the deal if it gets to his desk now because it would reduce furloughs from three days to one for the 95,000 workers represented by the union.
In fact, if by some miracle the contract passed tomorrow, workers subject to its terms would be off furlough immediately, as we explained in this blog post.
A few snippets from our telephone conversation with Walker this morning:
The State Worker: So what happened with AB 88?
Yvonne Walker: Lord knows. It doesn't make sense to me still. We didn't get any Republican votes in the Senate. I can't tell you why. It was the right thing to do when we negotiated (the contract) and it's still is the right thing to do. I think it's a sign of the larger dysfunction in the Capitol. No wonder people are so dissatisfied with the governor and the Legislature.
The State Worker: What did you do to try to get it through?
Walker: I started lobbying at the Capitol at 9 a.m. on Friday and didn't leave until 3:30 a.m. on Saturday.
The State Worker: Then what?
Walker: Well, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what had happened. And then I got some sleep.
The State Worker: Well, the bill isn't dead. It can come up again.
Walker: Yes, it can. Only two votes. It would have taken only two votes. There wasn't a face to it for (the Republicans). They were like bomber pilots in World War II. They just drop the bomb but never see the results up close.
The State Worker: What do you mean?
Walker: Look, I invite any one of them (Republicans) to come out and spend a day walking in a state worker's shoes. At EDD, while they're providing benefits and services, their pay is being cut nearly 15 percent. And it doesn't even help the general fund. They're struggling to make ends meet, but they're still showing up, every day. In my mind, state workers are unsung heroes.
The State Worker: And you think that there's a disconnect between what's happening at that level and the Legislature?
Walker: It's mind boggling. It really is. These people talk in grand terms. It's so easy.
The State Worker: Well, what now? You've lost twice with this.
Walker: We're going to keep fighting, not only for ourselves, but for California. This policy is terrible for state workers. It's terrible for the economy. We have a governor who is determined to leave a legacy, unfortunately it's a legacy that is bad for California.
IMAGE: Yvonne Walker / Brian Baer, Sacramento Bee