The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 24, 2009
CCPOA, Novey and CO furloughs

Before yesterday's furlough news broke, our plan was to write our Thursday column about the two big developments with CCPOA, namely its furlough win Thursday in Alameda Superior Court followed by the revelation on Friday that it had axed its consulting contract with founder and former president Don Novey.

So we'll tackle those two topics here.

It looks like the CCPOA lawsuit was the first decision handed down because it was the most clear cut in light of the law. (Read more about the specifics of the ruling by clicking here.)

Union lawyer Gregg McLean Adam made this key argument to Judge Frank Roesch during oral argument in November: "There are legal consequences if (furlough time on the books) expires (by the June 2012 deadline). The state has a duty to pay employees monthly, and furlough time must be taken off during the pay period. ... Otherwise, the state could put off its obligations to pay indefinitely. ... What if they issue a memo tomorrow (putting off the redemption deadline) to 2015?"

Look for other unions with employees on self-directed furlough to make the same argument.

But here's the question: Is the CCPOA win a Pyrrhic victory?

Click the following link to read the e-mail response to the CCPOA win by the Schwarzenegger administration.

Here's what Rachel Arrezola, the governor's spokeswoman, said in an e-mail last week to The State Worker after the ruling:

The case today in Alameda strictly ruled on "self-directed" furloughs, and we fully expect to prevail on appeal, but there is an important point to take from what this ruling could mean for correctional officers, and why they would want that:

1. California has had to take significant steps to address its ongoing budget crisis, including giving three days of furloughs to California's prison employees. The manner in which it was structured by the Department considered how to capture the maximum budget savings while keeping prisons operating as normally as possible.

2. Without self-directed furloughs, the department would move to implement a directed three-day a month furlough schedule.

3. The current self-directed furlough system allows the department to plan and schedule time off to keep the prisons operating as normally as possible.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Rachel

So how would directed furloughs at prisons work? More forced overtime to cover for furloughs? (Then the furloughs become a net fiscal minus.) A rush to hire more COs so that the furlough time is offset by more staff? (No savings there, either.) Maybe more lockdowns so that the prisons can operate with 86 percent of the manpower? (Wouldn't that invite a slew of lawsuits from prisoners' rights groups?)

We've looked around and haven't found any online policy advisories about how 24/7 facilities can put their employees on directed furloughs, but we've called the Department of Personnel Administration for more details. We'll report back what we hear.

And then there's the split with Novey.

About a dozen Bee readers and State Worker blog users contacted us after Dan Smith and your humble blogger reported that CCPOA has dumped Don Novey's consulting contract with the union and published two stinging e-mails from Novey to the union. A common question: What's the big deal?

The union isn't talking about it -- at least it's not talking to The Bee. So the only thing that we've reported so far is from Novey's side and from folks who are unhappy with union leadership. We hope the union will decide to talk to us at some point.

What's clear is that the union leadership is in turmoil. CCPOA's move last week was like Microsoft telling Bill Gates to turn in his keys to the office suite and never come back.

Novey represents the glory days of CCPOA, when gubernatorial candidates courted the union's endorsement and lawmakers signed off on contracts that eventually made CCPOA members the best-paid correctional officers in the nation.

Your humble blogger was an intern reporting on the state Assembly for the Los Angeles Times when Novey retired in 2002. His last appearance on the Assembly floor that summer was literally a show-stopping affair, as lawmakers dropped what they were doing to gather around him like ducks crowding around bread crumbs. Handshakes. Applause. And then Novey, wearing his signature fedora, was gone.

But he has always been in the background. And now, we're learning, he hasn't been happy with how things have been going under the present leadership. He didn't like the the way that contract negotiations went, leading up to an impasse and Schwarzenegger imposing his last, best and final offer on the union. He pointed out that if the union had a contract in place that CCPOA would have escaped furloughs along with CAHP, the only union with a current labor deal.

Apparently, recent moves to expel dissidents among the union's retirees were too much for Novey. At a recent union retirees meeting, he blasted union leadership for what he has called a "Stalin-like attacks" on members. Now he is on the outside.

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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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