The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

November 5, 2009
Column extra: Are state workers enabling bad government?

The State Worker column in today's fiber and cyber Bee notes that we've entered a 12-week stretch of four-day work weeks for state employees because of holidays and "Furlough Fridays." Our sense is that, for several reasons outlined in the column, the public may not notice.

But it's clear that this will intensify the pressure some state workers have felt in the Schwarzenegger furlough era to do the same or more work in less time.

You could argue that we've arrived at this point because the economic recession has exposed the many poor decisions made over many years by lawmakers and the public (via ballot initiatives) about state revenues and resources. Many (Most? All?) state workers would argue that Schwarzenegger's furloughs are bad policy that unjustly punishes state workers for matters over which they have no control.

A state worker friend put it this way: "Give them more and they'll always take more, especially when they don't deserve it."

So if that policy is trying to get 40 hours of worth of work from state employees but paying for 32 hours, what's the appropriate response? How much harder should state workers be expected to work? And as the new performance level becomes expected, does that mask the consequences of bad decisions that might be altered if the pain of furloughs was more acutely felt by elected officials and the public?

If you're a state worker and you're killing yourself to get your work done, are you enabling bad government? Or are you exercising a laudable work ethic?

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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 jortiz@sacbee.com.

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