An ocean of purple washed over the west side of the state Capitol today as thousands of SEIU Local 1000 members wearing the union's signature t-shirts rallied for a new contract and held signs that pushed a new message, "I am California."
Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker furthered that message, telling the cheering crowd that labor talks that started Monday must lead to a deal that "not only makes sense for state workers, but that makes sense for California."
The crowd, estimated at about 8,000 people by the union, protested Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's assertion that the state must withhold their pay to the federal minimum wage if lawmakers don't reach a budget by midnight that appropriates funding for state payroll.
The rally spilled from the Capitol's west steps to 10th Street, with information and registration booths lining both sides of the broad walkway. Participants grabbed croissant sandwiches, pizza or hot dogs for the lunchtime event. A massive electronic monitor showed live video shots as cameras panned the cheering crowd.
Guadalupe Gonzalez carried a sign that read, "Hey Arnold, I can't feed my dog on minimum wage! Why do you want to kill my puppy?"
Gonzalez said she makes less than $30,000 per year working in a Los Angeles-area office of the Department of Food and Agriculture. She's worried that just one or two months of her pay being withheld to $7.25 per hour would "put me on the street."
Even worse, she said, is the uncertainty of what her Aug. 1 paycheck will be. The 3rd District Court of Appeal is expected to rule any time on a trial court decision that Controller John Chiang overstepped his authority during the 2008 budget impasse when he refused to comply with administration letters instructing him to withhold state workers' pay.
"This makes everybody insecure," Gonzalez said.
Photo captions: top - A large group of SEIU Local 1000 members and supporters gathered at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Wednesday, June 30, to protest the proposed cut to their salaries to the federal minimun wage. bottom - Patsy Alvarado, 41, of Porterville, holds her daughter Elisa, 3, as her son Adrian, 5, sits next to her during a rally by the SEIU Local 1000 at the Capitol on Wednesday. Photos by Hector Amezcua
Come back later today for Bee videographer Hector Amezcua's video from today's rally.