The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

November 21, 2012
Blog back: Jerry Brown's furlough battle with unions

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 080811 Jerry Brown.JPGBlog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Our report on the latest development in the furlough fight between Gov. Jerry Brown and unions representing state engineers and scientists became an opportunity for blog users to toss in their thoughts about the governor's relationship with labor, the value of unions and whether furloughs save money at all.

Nov. 19, 2012 Jerry Brown administration files furlough appeal

HAHAAAHAAHAA Ha... Now litigation will spend any dollar saved over the past decade.... California will now enjoy the costs of fraud right in their own pockets... LOL... And whats new?

There's a common misperception that furlough litigation costs have offset state payroll savings from furloughs. That's clearly not the case. Not even close.

In 2010, the state contracted with two firms for furlough litigation for a total $2.25 million. That's not chump change, but it's fairly insignificant when compared to the $839 million cut from the state budget by putting state employees on furlough one day per month for one year.

Even the current litigation, likely the last remnant of the epic furlough fights that started four years ago under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, would be more expensive for Brown to settle than to fight. The 13,000 state engineers and scientists affected by the case stand to receive about $12 million in back pay.

The greater cost of furloughs has been to morale and productivity that prompted a spike in retirements. It's impossible to know how many state employees left earlier than they would have if their hours and pay hadn't been cut, but the record-setting 2010 retirement numbers indicate that the policy drove some folks to the exits.

The cost of those earlier retirements is impossible to quantify. Retirees entering the retirement system earlier can be a longer drain on its resources. Lost institutional knowledge and experience can further further drain savings from furloughs. It's difficult to quantify these soft costs to government, which will likely be felt for years to come.

Gee I wonder how much that "administration contract attorney" is costing the taxpayers?!? We're hundreds of thousands in the hole for the Governator's contract attorneys ...

Good question. We'll get the latest numbers. Stay tuned ...

Brown took some shots from commenters over his decision to appeal the furlough ruling against his administration:

Brown should just let this one go.
The irony of all of this is Governor Brown signed the Dills Act back in the 1970s and now he is actively violating it.
It is called an illegal lockout and the employees did not do the wrong, the employer did. The voters should vote in better leadership if they want this sort of thing happening.

We wouldn't be surprised if the parties settle this at some point. Brown has settled labor disputes before (see CCPOA's union paid leave case).

And with contract talks looming next year, the unions might see the litigation as leverage at the bargaining table ...

Then there's always the big-picture angle that filters events through a political prism:

He's only doing it cause he knows he'll lose. But he'll look like he's being tough on unions. I don't believe anything Democrats are doing to limit unions until I see it actually happen. Otherwise, it's just posturing.
Hilarious! All you out there that think Brown is the union's friend. Only when it benefits his agenda.
PECG did not contribute their "fair share" to his campaign and to Prop 30.

Professional Engineers in California Government contributed $100,000 to the Yes on 30 campaign, the third-largest donation it made during the last election cycle, according to state campaign finance records.

Brown's committee received $51,800 from the union in 2010, the maximum allowed by state law at the time. PECG also gave $1 million to the California Democratic Party, which in turn kicked in $4.2 million for Brown's successful 2010 gubernatorial run.

For the record, the smaller of the two unions that are party to Brown's furlough appeal, California Association of Professional Scientists, gave $25,000 to the Yes on 30 campaign. Two years ago it contributed the maximum $51,800 to Brown's gubernatorial campaign committee and $287,000 to the California Democratic Party, according to state records.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown / Sacramento Bee 2010 file, Hector Amezcua

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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


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