The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

March 3, 2011
Unions ask Alameda Superior Court judge to stop furloughs

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgEditor's note: This post has been changed to clarify the impact of furloughs on employee pay for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Five of six state employee unions without contracts whose members are furloughed three days per month have asked an Alameda Superior Court judge to stop the policy.

Professional Engineers in California Government, California Association of Professional Scientists, California Correctional Peace Officers' Association and California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges, and Hearing Officers in State Employment are the union plaintiffs in the lawsuit now before Judge Steven Brick.

The Association of California State Supervisors, which speaks on behalf of management-level exempt workers, is also a party to the lawsuit.

California Statewide Law Enforcement Association didn't join the other unions in the litigation, which names Gov. Jerry Brown as defendant.

A hearing is set for Friday, April 8, at 9 a.m. in Alameda Superior Court.

The lawsuit contends that Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger illegally furloughed state workers three days per month with his order on July 28, 2010, that resumed the policy for workers in unions without contracts. The furloughs continued when Democrat Brown took the governor's office in January.

Brown's 2011-12 budget proposal assumes $308 million in payroll savings from the 63,000 employees in unions currently without contracts through either negotiated concessions or continuing furloughs.

The Legislature didn't authorize Schwarzenegger's 2010 furlough order, the plaintiffs' lawyers say, because the 2010-11 budget that OK'd the policy also says pay cuts of furloughed employees should be proportional with cuts imposed on state supervisors.

Those imposed cuts, which are very close to the concessions negotiated by SEIU Local 1000 last October, equal an 8.5 percent reduction in annual pay for fiscal 2010-11. (There were no furloughs in July.) Furloughs three days each month reduce an employees' annual pay by about 12.5 percent.

The California Supreme Court ruled in another furlough case that the Legislature, not the governor, has sole authority to set wages and work terms. That decision, however, didn't address Schwarzenegger's 2010 order.

The latest legal filing amends an earlier case seeking to stop the July 2010 furlough order. Brick ruled in favor of the unions, but when the state Supreme Court decided that it wanted to rule on the policy, it froze Brick's order. Now several combined cases are revived in Brick's courtroom and employ the new argument on proportional cuts.

PECG v. Jerry Brown

IMAGE: www.yolocourts.ca.gov

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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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