The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 5, 2009
Blog Back: News, numbers, nabbing lawbreakers

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

Sept. 15 State worker gets 25 years in child molestation and porn case

Occasionally, we put up news on this blog knowing ahead of time it will upset some blog users. This was one of them. A sample of the comments:

Getting bored, Jon? I hope the next thing you post is not the devil himself being a state worker. Why in the world would you post this?
Wow, here's a story that really belongs here. What does this have to do with state workers generally or the job issues that they deal with every day? Maybe it's designed to stoke yet more nonsense on the part of the all of the haters who regularly spew their venom here. Hey, here's an idea. The next time that any Sac Bee employee finds him/herself in any kind of legal circumstance, a wholesale expose should be done here. It would be as relevant to the Sac Bee's overall operation as this cretin's problems are to state workers as a group.

So what piece of information that you cited really helps us understand this story, Jon? That Feliciano was a state worker? That he was a DLC president for Local 1000? That he worked at Dept of Insurance? That he takes a spooky mug shot? Just what is it about the data you assembled gives us any incite (sic) whatsoever?

You see, Jon, when you include irrelevant facts in reporting a reprehensible act, you lend an air of causality where none exists. That is bias, pure and simple. Even if you personally did not intend it, you've painted a picture here that places state workers in a very bad light and did not by any stretch of the imagination chronicle "civil service life for California state workers."

Bad move. Pull the article from here and put it over on the crime blotter where it belongs and change the headline's State Worker to simpley "Man".

There are criminals in all walks of life, but this blog covers state workers. So when a state employee is named in a high-profile case or when state workers are victims of a high-profile crime (such as the recent murder of two state workers at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge) we'll normally link to reports. It's news.

We had linked to a story when Feliciano was arrested and followed with our own reporting. We felt the resolution of the case merited a similar post, We linked back to the earlier item to give SEIU's explanation of his union position, how he attained it and to remind readers the union had denounced the crime. We felt that was fair.

Sept. 16 In the news: Courts closed today; pension debate "twists" reality

Speaking of posts sure to draw strong reactions, we knew one article in this news roundup would draw plenty of comments because it included a public-private wage comparison.

"The piece includes this chart, which compares the public and private sector wages in about four dozen categories. All but four public jobs lagged their private sector counterparts, according to the survey. The average difference was nearly 26 percent."

How many times have we tried to tell you that? And yet the Bee (and not just the Bee but many other newspapers as well) keeps repeating the myth that we are all overpaid because the mean and median salaries are higher for public sector workers. That comparison is *meaningless*; you have to compare specific job categories or you are misleading the public.

Specific job comparisons aren't simple. Many public sector jobs have no direct private counterpart. Comparisons also skew toward larger, publicly-held companies, since their information is more accessible than private business information. Numbers, as we noted in this June State Worker column, require interpretation. That makes them inherently open to debate.

DPA in 2006 tried to make private-public comparisons, but the results were flawed, as we mentioned in this blog post.

Having said that, it's clear that some state workers are underpaid relative to counterparts in the private sector or other levels of government, including attorneys and investment managers.

This blog user raised an issue with the numbers in the article linked to in this post:

The AFT Public Employees Compensation Survey is the only national survey of its kind, providing comprehensive information on the compensation of state-employed professionals. The 2007 report compares the salaries and pay practices of state-employed professionals across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This isn't CA data!

Sept. 16 See which state departments hired newcomers this year

I been out on Disability an SacBee is still reporting I am making $31,000.00, lol get it right! I am making 55% of my salary monthly, Stop telling the public lies, give them the truth; they deserve it.

As the source notes explain on the pay database Web site, the data are "the actual amounts paid to (state workers) during 2008, according to the State Controller's Office and the UC system." The Bee's updates the figures annually. So, for example, the impact of furloughs are not included in the figures.

Sept. 17 State Fund employees to receive full September pay

Two takes on the State Fund lawsuit and what it might mean for other state workers:

Personally, I'd just be happy with the furloughs ending. I wouldn't fight for back pay. You took the amount of furlough days in the proposed contract (approximately) and did your part to "share the pain"... if all special fund agencies win their furlough lawsuits WITH back pay, Arnold is going to go on a lay off spree, and the last thing California needs is more unemployment. End the furloughs, end the lawsuits, and lets get back to trying to fix this state.
neverborne, I totally see where you're coming from and for the most part I agree. The problem is that people were adversely affected by this illegal act. A forced day off does not compensate for it. (IMO). Many SCIF employees worked through the furlough schedule because they wanted to keep service to policy holders and claimants unaffected. Maybe a decent compromise can be hashed out.

Sept 18 State board agents nab unlicensed contractors ... on Fridays, too

Reactions to this post shows how one person's enlightening illustration is another's "lame article."

Goes to show how dedicated Public Servants are to protect and serve through tough times. Many are losing homes, hurting financially, and starving. Thanks to GAS violating US Constitution and California Constitution.
This is a lame article. I bet the verbage in the email that is referred to is automatically included in every email. What I want to know is why the author thinks employees should work without pay on Furlough Fridays?

We agree that the information about the office closing on "Furlough Fridays" is probably on all such CSLB e-mails. The point of our follow-up phone call was to determine whether the governor's policy was restricting law enforcement actions on those days. We wanted to know if unlicensed contractors could do business without fear of a state sting three Fridays each month.

Sept. 21 Commission to employees: Don't dress like you're at the lake

Slow news day? Come on, Jon, quit "stirring the pot" with this drivel.
There is nothing interesting about routine dress code emails. Shall we get a link to every sexual harassment training memo and a reminders for cleaning the break room? If there is nothing to report on, then report nothing.

Part of chronicling the state workforce, we believe, includes more than just the hard news of lawsuits, layoffs, policy and the like. Sometimes highlighting the "routine" parts of civil service are revealing. In this case, the post netted 83 comments and was among the best-read blog items in September.

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com 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 jortiz@sacbee.com.

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