The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

May 24, 2013
Blog Back: UC system's union fight revives classic pay debate

130513-UC-Seal.jpgAh, memories.

Posts about the bitter labor fight between the University of California and AFSCME dredge up the kind of user comments we used to see during the pitched union battles that were common during Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration.

A sampling of the "unions-good/unions-bad" debate with criticisms of this blog mixed in:

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.

July 6, 2012
Blog back: California compensation cut calculations, contractual constraints, 'cutbacks' caveat changed

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100831 calculator.JPGBlog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

July 3 SEIU Local 1000 members vote to accept furloughs

Well for starters, I'm not sure if the state is saving $839 million or $401 million, since the article fails to explain the details of the $438 million difference.

Regardless, $401 million divided by 93,000 employees divided by 12 days is $359.32 per day; or hourly pay of $44.91. This equates to an annual salary of $93,423.

Now, we all know that the average state worker doesn't make $93,000, so I'm guessing Jerry is just blowing more smoke at us .... and this is without the unexplained $438 million.

February 24, 2012
Ron Yank explains why he's leaving Jerry Brown's administration

Thumbnail image for 110816 Ron Yank.JPGAs we reported earlier this week, Department of Personnel Administration Director Ron Yank is leaving his post at the end of this month. The news -- which he spread himself in a series of personal calls and emails -- surprised labor leaders and state managers.

Late last month I asked Yank how he was enjoying his job as California's labor relations point man. "I love it," he said, and told me that he had no plans to leave.

I asked him that question nearly every time that we spoke over the last year. Yank didn't need the money, having retired from a long and successful career in labor law representing the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and other unions.

And I always wondered whether Yank, a marathon runner who admits to flashes of temper and salty language when it gets his point across, was suited to head a bureaucracy.

The DPA director sits at what can be an uncomfortable intersection between politics, law and finance. The job requires offering carrots and sticks to other department heads and labor leaders and walking a narrow path between the administrative independence that gives the office power while still executing the governor's agenda.

Ron Yank never struck me as a guy who was keen on asking for permission. His exit illustrated that fact. Instead of waiting for the governor's office to announce his departure and name a successor, he broke with protocol, picked up the phone and started calling union leaders to tell them he was leaving at the end of the month. The news quickly spread.

On Wednesday, Yank said that despite all of his assurances to the contrary, he took the post with the understanding he would leave after one year. That was all the time he was willing to take away from his family in the Bay Area, he said.

He didn't want to make that known for fear of hobbling his effectiveness. "If I'd been a lame duck, we couldn't have accomplished half the things we accomplished," he said as we drank coffee at a restaurant near DPA's offices on S Street.

What follows is an email to DPA staff with the subject line, "Why is Ron leaving his job after only one year?" Yank issued it a few hours after news of his exit surfaced on Tuesday. We're publishing it here after confirming its authenticity with DPA.

As of this morning, the Brown administration still hasn't issued an official statement about Yank's departure or named a successor.

March 30, 2011
Blog back: How numbers show (and don't show) pain

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Any time The State Worker blog refers to statistics about public employees, some blog users discount the numbers. The criticisms usually fall into one of four categories: The numbers are (1) incomplete or inaccurate, (2) agenda-driven to demean state workers or discount their sacrifices, (3) agenda-driven to drum up sympathy for state workers, or (4) stir controversy and encourage "state worker haters" to flame civil servants. Often statistics posts will inspire all four criticisms at the same time.

Which brings us to Monday's item about state and local government employees' income.

February 28, 2011
Blog Back: State worker retirements

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Feb. 24 State worker retirements up 10 percent in February

Boomer's peak, that's all. Three years the trend will reverse.

Actually, the trend is just a few years old, assuming baby boomers (defined as Americans born from 1946 through 1964) will continue entering CalPERS' retirement rolls at an average age of 60. Here's a chart that shows how many CalPERS members received their first pension checks each fiscal year since 2000-01:

February 2, 2011
Blog Back: What should government expect from employees?

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Our recent poll on what state workers expect of their government employer sparked plenty of discussion. We were particularly struck by one comment that turned the question around.

Jan. 31 Poll: What do state workers expect?

Please keep one thing in mind Jon, expectations are a two-way street. If the State lowers the expectations of the people who work for it, the State better be prepared to reap the consequences and swallow the hard pill of expecting less from the worker. You can't change the time tested adage "you reap what you sew (sic)."

A fine, concise comment -- and fodder for this new poll:

December 21, 2010
Blog back: Brown and furloughs

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Many blog users were upset with our analysis of incoming Gov. Jerry Brown's furlough options, which we touched on in last week's State Worker column and then discussed in more detail here:

Dec. 16 Column Extra: More about Brown and furloughs

John (sic), you obviously you write articles without doing any research before you publish it. You should know by now that special funded departments do not get pay from the general fund. So the savings in the budget by GAS and the Leg, are not true saving figures. Brown could easily end furlough for special funded departments. This would instantly stimulate the economy while getting much of the stalled work done while the budget deficit remains the same.

December 14, 2010
The State Worker reviews the year's top posts: No. 10

This is the first in a series of posts looking back at the most-read State Worker blog posts and columns.

Turmoil dominated California's state employee labor news this year, and it's reflected in the State Worker blog posts that received the most hits in 2010.

On June 23, we passed along a Department of Personnel Administration memo that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was countdown 10.JPGsticking with his plan to end furloughs at the end of the 2009-2010 fiscal year, but "retains the right and authority to order furloughs if necessary to address a fiscal and cash crisis."

We also reported that the governor was ready to tell Controller John Chiang to withhold state employee's pay to the federal minimum allowed if lawmakers didn't reach a budget by the June 30 fiscal year-end.

Click here to look back on "State issues memo on furloughs, minimum wage," the 10th most-read State Worker blog post of the year.

November 19, 2010
Blog Back: The SEIU ratification numbers

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

We're on the record as supporting SEIU Local 1000's decision to publish the raw numbers from its recent contract ratification vote. It was an unusually transparent move for the union, especially given the unpopular concessions in the MOU.

Of course, revealing the numbers also reignited debate about the contract, the voting rules and the veracity of the union. All of that spilled into the comments section of this blog.

November 8, 2010
Blog back: Price per prisoner; private prisons' political payouts

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Nov. 5 Corrections contracts out-of-state facilities for 2,600 inmates

Here's a brief comment/conversation that starts with a suggestion/criticism and ends with ... well, you'll see:

And just what does this cost me as a tax payer? How about some numbers Ortiz? What's (sic) the costs to outsource to another State (Cost Per Bed) in regards to the actual costs to house inmates in a California State Prison? I know the overcrowding is an issue however, is this the most cost effective way to resolve the overcrowding? Let's do some reporting and state the facts and numbers......

We should have included the costs in the post.

For the record, the GEO Group agreement is to house 2,600 prisoners at $60 million per year. That rounds out to about $23,000 annually per inmate. The four-year contract starts in 2011.

Talks with Corrections Corp. of America aim to ship nearly 2,400 more California inmates out of state, besides the nearly 10,000 it currently houses. The two-year contract will cost $300 million annually, or about $24,000 per inmate.

California's per-inmate housing cost in 2008-09 was roughly $47,000, according to this Legislative Analyst's Office report.That was among the highest in the nation.

If you really want to dig into the topic, check out this report by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project. It's a tad dated, but interesting nonetheless.

Moving on ... Apparently, some users are still bothered over our recent series of posts on unions' political spending.

July 27, 2010
Blog back: Pot stirring, personal feelings, pleasure in pain

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

July 23 A finish line, of sorts, on state workers' paychecks

Once again Ortiz stirs the pot! The Bee has been repleat (sic) with stories about state workers getting their full paychecks for July and August (due to the Judge's order), but Ortiz feels compelled to tell us, yet again, that that's the case. Slow news day, Jon?

May 18, 2010
Blog back: The sin of omission; outsourcing furlough lawyers

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

One of the most common criticisms that we receive in comments, phone calls and e-mails is that a news story, State Worker column or blog post excluded vital information -- the sin of omission. The critics often ascribe a sinister motive to what's left out:

May 12 Breaking news: NY judge bars state worker furloughs

Hey, Jon?! How come you didn't print this line from the article on the blog, instead hiding behind the "Click Here?" Oh, yeah, because that would have been accurate and fair . . . .

"State and federal courts around the country have largely upheld challenges to mandatory furloughs ordered by state officials."

When we call attention a news story and link to it, we quickly copy a few paragraphs that we think will encourage blog users to read the entire story. We give the decision about what to copy just a few seconds, and we don't try to lay out all the points made in the report.

If we had some sort of agenda to conceal court actions around the country that have blocked furloughs, why would we have called attention to the news from New York in the first place? Ditto for court decisions overturning furloughs in Hawaii and elsewhere that we've followed through links on this blog.

May 13 Schwarzenegger's 'unusual' letter to the state Supreme Court

I think this state worker blog is a doing a terrible job at reporting. Why doe (sic) this article fail to state that Kronick Moskovitz Tiedeman and Gerard, which has been retained by the Schwarzenegger administration for furlough litigation is being paid with our tax dollars?? This is because the AG wouldn't represent him. The last figure I saw at attorney costs we're paying for the Governor was over 500k last year. I can only wonder what the total is now. Sickening, absolutely wrong.
April 20, 2010
Blog back: Online comments

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

April 14 Poll: Are anonymous online comments worthwhile?

As of this morning, 56 percent of those responding to our poll said that online comments on are useless. Here are a few of the comments on comments, with our thoughts sprinkled in:

How do you know someone isn't using a pseudonym?

You wouldn't unless you forced registration with a credit card. That's part of the challenge of asking contributors to identify themselves. And just because someone sets up an account doesn't mean that they are the only person posting through it.

Jon, (h)ow are you defining anonymous? It would be OK to post with just a user name, with Sacbee having the e-mail address that they don't give out. The publisher could have an activation e-mail sent to the account for verification. Don't think you need much beyond that. It will give the publisher some control to help with moderation.

"Anonymous" in this context is the ability to post comments that are read by the public on without the commenter's true name attached to their words.

Letters published in the newspaper, for example, are not anonymous. The Bee requires that an author submit his or her real name, postal address and daytime phone number. The author's real name is published with their comments. It's not a foolproof system, but it attempts to ensure that identity is the price of access to the forum. (Click here for more about rules for offering a letter for publication.)

Online comments carry no such price, but they don't have the same payoff, either. Click-throughs on most posts on The State Worker account for less than 1 percent of the total hits on the blog. So, unless a comment is hoisted to blog back status, a relatively small number of online visitors see it. Cheaper access, smaller forum, smaller audience.

Click the following link to read more blog backs.

April 5, 2010
Blog back: Schwarzenegger, Steinberg and special session rules

Editor's note: This post was corrected to reflect that the extraordinary session vote chronology was for SBX8 29, not AB 790.

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

April 1 Latest on state worker pay bill; post mortem on Steinberg's bill

Why would the governor veto the bill?

The same answer applies whether you're talking about AB 790 or SBX8 29: The governor is highly unlikely to support legislation that he sees as weakening his authority to manage the state's business or, as his office often says, "shields" state workers from the economic realities confronting "every family and business in California."

We would also note that public officeholders rarely support legislation that diminishes their power.

Did GAS purposely act (veto) on the bill after the extraordinary session concluded, which therefore, took out the override vote out of the picture? How much time did GAS have to act/non-act on this bill when the legislature was still in the extraordinary session? Hey Ortiz, can you get an answer for this question?

Click the following link to read the answer.

March 19, 2010
Blog back: Scaring state workers

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Our reporting on AB 790 upset some State Worker blog users. We'll give you some insights into how and why we decided to post this item:

Mar. 16 Budget gimmick looks like an earlier chance to withhold pay

Nice way to scare the state workforce early Jon. You should be ashamed and the governor should be ashamed for even pressing the point of state employees getting minimum wage if a budget is not in place ...

I was wondering what happened to the official state worker instigator/hater. It's been about a week since Mr. Ortiz has bashed state workers ...

Click the following link to read about the evolution of the AB 790 post.

March 10, 2010
Blog back: 'Stupid' polls?

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Writing The State Worker blog, which draws tens of thousands of users from inside and outside of state government, means that nobody will like every post. Take our recent telework poll, for example:

Mar. 9 Poll: Telework and remote computer access

Here's a criticism from prolific blog user Marlinman:

It's nothing new for Jon to come up with these stupid surveys meant to discredit State employees (which are either responded to by brain-dead employees or the normal "hacks" that are filled with hate anyway)! ... I agree with maxter151, why doesn't the bee expect Jon to write this column for free, because stunts like this are worthless!!!

Read our response to this comment and more of our blog backs by clicking the following link.

February 19, 2010
Blog back: Schwarzenegger's 'conceptual proposal' to CASE

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

We knew that the CASE contract posting would generate some controversy. What we didn't anticipate was the "shoot the messenger" comments that surfaced after a comment was apparently deleted. We'll reconstruct our thinking as we read the comments on Wednesday evening.

Feb. 17 CASE pessimistic about labor contract talks

First, this one liner from prolific blog user THESILKY1:

How About It Ortiz, to (sic) controversial?

February 17, 2010
Blog back: The patrol, pounds of food, punctuation

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Feb. 11 Column extra: View the CCPOA Union Paid Leave documents

Writing about CCPOA issues almost always incites CAHP critics:


Click the following link to read our response and other blog backs.

December 28, 2009
Furlough case Judge Roesch at work - and in court - today

As thousands of state workers  - and readers of this blog - wait for three important rulings in their campaign to stop state furloughs, one reader wondered aloud today whether Alameda County Superior Court Justice Frank Roesch was even at work this week.

We're monitoring the court case on the Web all week, watching for the rulings, but the reader - who goes by the Web moniker "dontboxmein", suggested I make a call. 

So, I did.

The State Worker can now report that Judge Roesch was at work, on the bench and hearing cases in Department 31 in Oakland this morning, a department official confirmed.

No word on whether he plans to deliver his ruling this week.

However, it's a short four-day week for Roesch; all courts are closed Friday, New Year's Day.

December 15, 2009
Blog back: Salaries and surveys

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Dollars and cents.jpgBlog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Dec. 3 More about state employee pensions

This post about pensions prompted a string of comments about wages, including the common argument that state workers earn relatively less, which justifies their better-than-average retirement packages. One blog user moved beyond that analysis:

Each Union has its own interests and does not have any incentive to tell their members or the general public how well or poorly they are doing for their employees.

Those that do very poorly like SEIU, CASE, IUOE etc do not want to trumpet their failures at the bargaining table. In the case of SEIU it is due to utter incompetence.

Those that do very well like PECG, CAHP, CCPOA do not want to trumpet their success too loudly because they don't want the general public to be aware of up to 50% increases in the last 5 years (its true check

The Guv or the legislature needs to demand that DPA prepare a comprehensive report showing the total compensation of ALL state employees and how they compare with the private sector & other gov entities. Then we need a State policy on compensation that is fairly applied. SEIU employees get the shaft. The CHP and PECG get huge raises. Not fair!

The state has tried to make public-to-private sector total compensation comparisons. Ditto for government-to-government pay and benefits. Click here to see a list.

The problem is that the comps have significant flaws. For example, DPA's 2006 total compensation survey left out chunks of pertinent information. Click this link to open the surveys' methodology page and scroll to the bottom for important footnotes about the data collected -- and what wasn't collected.

From what we can tell (and this is by no means conclusive), pay for lower-skill state jobs tends to be higher than the private sector. As you move up the professional skill ladder, however, pay lags (attorneys, scientists, investment managers, information technology, etc.). And local governments tend to pay better than the state. (Prison medical staff are a different story, for reasons laid out by Bee colleague Charles Piller in his two-part investigation, which you can read here and here.)

But when you consider state salary history over the last 10 years, which groups got significant raises? Broadly speaking, those with political clout (correctional officers, until CCPOA got sideways with the governor), those whose pay is a matter of statute (CHP officers, whose pay is tied to that of five other California law enforcement bodies), or those who could make the case stick that the state was suffering serious harm because key talent dumped the state for higher-paying jobs elsewhere (engineers) or a profound shortage or legal intervention that gave folks in a job class leverage (prison nurses).

It also appears to help if your union is narrowly focused on just a few job classifications. For example, SEIU Local 1000's master contract has lagged the Consumer Price Index for many years, as we noted in this State Worker column. CAHP, CCPOA and PECG cover a narrow range of job classes and have enjoyed some success in the last decade. But this isn't and ironclad rule, as CASE and CAPS show.

Most of the time someone, somewhere is trying to sever from the more diverse unions. EPiCG members want out of SEIU for example. CSLEA has a faction, POC, that wants to break away.

The common complaint: The union's job class diversity hinders it from effectively bargaining for the group that wants to leave. And, of course, the unions dispute that.

In other words, survey and fact-find all you want. The numbers probably will be challenged either outside or inside your union. And even if the government agrees that some jobs aren't pay competitive, the state's present position -- as California's largest employer, as a "business" in perpetual fiscal crisis and as a spender of public money -- is that with a few exceptions if it can pay less for its help, it will.


December 8, 2009
Blog back: Worthwhile or worthless words?

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

So what makes a good blog post? What's a waste of time? The following item drew 57 comments, with several branching off into a conversation about the merit or uselessness of this post. We enjoyed the frank-but-civil discussion as blog users tossed this topic around. And we appreciated the opportunity that their comments gave us to re-examine what we're doing and why we do it.

Nov. 23 What's next with the Alameda County furlough lawsuits?

The comments, edited for brevity:

mnj wrote on 11/23/2009 09:59:27 AM: Wow! That was sure enlightening! NOT! Good grief! We already knew all the points made above. You had to do a whole "story" just to say "Well, folks, things are still up in the air"? Things must be real slow at the bee.

Click the following link to read the rest of this blog back.

November 25, 2009
Blog back: Court action; a candidate's plan

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

We're out of the office today, but our Bee Capitol Bureau colleagues are on the lookout for breaking state worker news.

This special blog back focuses on just two topics: The furlough lawsuits argued on Nov. 16 in Alameda Superior Court and Meg Whitman's continuing comments about cutting the state workforce.

Nov. 17 From the notebook: More from Monday's furlough hearing, part 1
Nov. 17 From the notebook: More from Monday's furlough hearing, part 2
Nov. 19 From the notebook: More from Monday's furlough hearing, part 3
Nov. 20 From the notebook: More from Monday's furlough hearing, part 4

Much of the problem has to do with the inability of the State to actually pass a busget (sic) on time, regardless of budget deficit spending. The threat of issuing IOUs had nothing to do with a lack of money, but with the State's chronic inability to agree on a budget, deficit spending or no. Were I an appeals Judge, I would have to rule that 'A lack of preparation on the State's Part does not create an emergency on the part of the people.' I don't know what WILL be decided, but I betcha the decision is entirely based on 'what constitutes a state of emergency.'

Click the following link to read more blog backs.

November 18, 2009
Blog back: Pensions, 'pot stirring,' poor spelling

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Nov. 5 Column extra: Are state workers enabling bad government?

It would be interesting to see a story about how many state personnel have retired or quit due to the furloughs. I'm (sic) my agency the retirees are leaving in droves.

It's difficult to determine why people retire or leave state service. We've been told the state doesn't have a standardized exit interview process. It's clear that an increasing number are leaving and that the pace has picked up since furloughs started. Here's a story we wrote about the phenomenon.

November 12, 2009
Blog back: Criticism, criteria, contributions

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

We've been off work the last few days, so there's no State Worker column today -- and we have some serious catching up to do here.

Meanwhile, here's a look back at recent posts and your comments:

Oct. 21 State Fund announces interim president and CEO

So Frank made $515,000 last year, and Stewart made $57,000 last year. I'd say that would be a pretty good raise he'll get if he gets the job permanent. (Look them up in the Sac Bee data base)

The Bee's pay database records pay for calendar 2008. So, as this commenter pointed out ..

Stewart wasn't actually an employee until Oct. 2008, so the $57,000 is just for the last 3 months of the year ...

Click the following link to read more blog backs.

November 2, 2009
Blog back: Conspiracy, Columbus Day, CalPERS 'potato guy'

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Oct. 12 It's Columbus Day: What are you seeing, state workers?

This post drew more than 200 comments. Reports were varied, but the overwhelming number of comments came from folks who said their workplace attendance looked like usual, but that they were grieving a contractual holiday and expect they'll eventually get premium pay.

I'm going to work, and let the courts decide. I never trust what the union says. If they're so right, why arent they calling for a strike?
Count me, I am staying home today.
People are working, as directed. The assumption is that if Columbus Day is recognized as a holiday at some point, a personal holiday will just be given to everyone retroactively. No biggie....its not like we had some wild Columbus Eve parties to recover from!

It looked like SEIU remained divided on the best course of action. While Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker called on workers to stay home, other leaders told their people to come to work:

Me and my co-workers are here because our department's union reps told us to come to work and file grievances, even though we're part of SEIU 1000.

It makes you wonder how SEIU-covered state workers would respond if the union called a walkout.

Oct. 13 Billwatch: Measure to protect furloughed worker discounts dead -- for now
Oct. 16 Surprise! Bill to protect furloughed state worker discounts clears Senate

Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod's bill, SB 367, looked like it would be stalled until next year, the victim of partisan wrangling that had nothing to do with the merits of the legislation. Then, suddenly, it found life. The Senate sent the measure to Schwarzenegger on a unanimous vote, following an earlier unanimous vote by the Assembly. As of Sunday, the governor had not acted on the measure, according to this Web site that lists bills he has signed and vetoed.

I don't see the point in this law. Businesses give discounts to lots of other groups. Senior citizen meal price. Kids menu. Student discount movie ticket price. Military discount. besides, now does "regardless of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, or sexual orientation" stretch to cover employment status?

Click here for a story that lays out the legal issue that prompted Negrete McLeod to write the bill, which, by the way, was backed by the trial lawyers lobby.

Click the link below to read more blog backs.

October 22, 2009
Blog back: Hand washing, holidays, hacking state jobs

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Oct. 2 CalPERS issues detailed handwashing instructions

Our post of the detailed hand hygiene memo struck a chord with blog users and was among the most popular State Worker items of the week. We thought it was a great example of the -- ahem -- culture of working for the state.

They missed the important steps of washing between fingers which few folks do
I received an email from the Dept. of Public Health telling me to order hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and facial tissue for the flu season. They even told me where to purchase it. I filled out the required purchase requisition and ordered enough for six months. I sent it to the Department Chief for signature. She sent it back telling me to cut the order down or find someplace cheaper to purchase the items. In the meantime, I get another email from her assistant telling me that as of the last Executive Order from Arnold we cannot purchase anything but to send the modified purchase requisition and she will hold it until we can purchase again. Then I find out from someone in the Dept's upper management that these supplies are exempt from the Exec. Order. I'm curious as to whether we'll get the supplies or not.

With flu season in full swing, we're curious, too.

... actually there are 2 memos coming out next week. The first will give the proper steps on how to brush your teeth nd or dentures and the second one pertains to the correct way to trim your toenails!

Then again ...

This is really something that is needed. I can't count the times I have witnessed people come out of the stalls and run their hand under the water and grab a handful of paper towels. You have to use soap and rub people. I have stopped shaking hands at meetings because of this. Wash your freaking hands.
October 16, 2009
Blog back: Women leaders, worker news, workplace showdown

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Sept. 23 Whitman assails state workers in gubernatorial bid

The former eBay CEO probably talks more about state workers than any other 2010 gubernatorial hopeful. This post drew more than 170 comments, many disparaging to Whitman. But some comments moved beyond invective to analysis:

It's weird how everytime she speaks she rails against state workers. Honestly, that's kinda of a niche group of people for Californians to hate. I'm suprised she doesn't go after undocumented workers - strike that -"illegal aliens" more often. "Illegal aliens" fomment a lot more rage than bashing a group of people that are mostly made up of white and latino working-class "legals." Weird strategy in my opinion ...

Sept. 24 SCIF president resigns

When department or agency heads depart, blog users will sometimes voice a collective, "Good riddance." Frank's departure elicited a more favorable farewell:

My wife and I are both SCIF employees. Thank you Ms. Frank.
Thank you Ms. Frank for standing up for your employees ...

Some commenters speculated that Frank was forced out of office for ultimately challenging State Fund employee furloughs in court.

I for one believes (sic) that the resignation was a fall-out for not toeing the line of the guvernator. Let's all applaud a great leader in Jan Frank. She stood for her employees even if it means incurring the ire of the powers that be in Sacramento.

Click the link below to read about a concern that Frank's departure raises.

October 5, 2009
Blog Back: News, numbers, nabbing lawbreakers

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Sept. 15 State worker gets 25 years in child molestation and porn case

Occasionally, we put up news on this blog knowing ahead of time it will upset some blog users. This was one of them. A sample of the comments:

Getting bored, Jon? I hope the next thing you post is not the devil himself being a state worker. Why in the world would you post this?
Wow, here's a story that really belongs here. What does this have to do with state workers generally or the job issues that they deal with every day? Maybe it's designed to stoke yet more nonsense on the part of the all of the haters who regularly spew their venom here. Hey, here's an idea. The next time that any Sac Bee employee finds him/herself in any kind of legal circumstance, a wholesale expose should be done here. It would be as relevant to the Sac Bee's overall operation as this cretin's problems are to state workers as a group.

So what piece of information that you cited really helps us understand this story, Jon? That Feliciano was a state worker? That he was a DLC president for Local 1000? That he worked at Dept of Insurance? That he takes a spooky mug shot? Just what is it about the data you assembled gives us any incite (sic) whatsoever?

You see, Jon, when you include irrelevant facts in reporting a reprehensible act, you lend an air of causality where none exists. That is bias, pure and simple. Even if you personally did not intend it, you've painted a picture here that places state workers in a very bad light and did not by any stretch of the imagination chronicle "civil service life for California state workers."

Bad move. Pull the article from here and put it over on the crime blotter where it belongs and change the headline's State Worker to simpley "Man".

There are criminals in all walks of life, but this blog covers state workers. So when a state employee is named in a high-profile case or when state workers are victims of a high-profile crime (such as the recent murder of two state workers at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge) we'll normally link to reports. It's news.

We had linked to a story when Feliciano was arrested and followed with our own reporting. We felt the resolution of the case merited a similar post, We linked back to the earlier item to give SEIU's explanation of his union position, how he attained it and to remind readers the union had denounced the crime. We felt that was fair.

October 1, 2009
Blog back: Contracts, Columbus Day and convenience

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Sept. 11 Local 1000 files grievance on holiday changes

These two comments summarize two schools of thought that have surfaced in literally hundreds of comments on this blog about the controversial changes to the state's holiday schedule:

The holiday's are gone. This past March a law went into effect that eliminated the Columbus and Lincoln's Birthday holiday. It was signed by the Gov. SEIU negotiated two floating holidays as the exchange but since the contract was never passed and signed the holidays should be returned. More to come in the next few weeks.
US Constitution - Section 10. NO STATE SHALL enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, OR LAW IMPAIRING THE OBLIGATION OF CONTRACTS, or grant any title of nobility.

What part of this statement doesn't the California Legislature and Governor understand?

Others have cited the Dills Act.

We were surprised by the relative lack of reaction from blog users about this issue until SEIU Local 1000 told state workers it represents that they still should consider Columbus Day a paid holiday under the terms of the union's expired contract. (In fairness, we should note that CASE filed a lawsuit contesting the holiday changes and SEIU Local 1000 filed a grievance with the Department of Personnel Administration.

We recently asked Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker why the union didn't raise the issue earlier. She said that because the union's labor deal -- which exchanges Columbus Day and Lincoln's Birthday in exchange for two personal days -- was still alive in the Legislature, the local was content to let the process play out. But now that Republicans in the Legislature have twice blocked the agreement's ratification (with Schwarzenegger's encouragement, according to Walker) and Columbus Day approaching, the union's leadership felt it needed to take a position.

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September 25, 2009
Blog Back: 'Core hours,' court win, contract audit, clever parody

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Sept. 9 Caltrans district director sets 'core business hours' for workers

Dear CALTRANS employees:

During lunch, you are expected to be on lunch. The core hours for lunch breaks are 11:30 to 1:00. Examples of proper lunch schedules could be: 11:30-12:30, 12:00-1:00, or even 12:00-12:30. These are examples of lunch schedule options which will enable staff to have flexibility and efficiency in eating lunch within the established lunch core hours. You should also eat a proper lunch. Examples of proper lunches include but are not limited to: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Top Ramen, and bologna sandwiches. These are examples of lunches, which should be eaten during core lunch hours while remaining flexible and efficient.

Tomorrow's memo will deal with break time.


Sept. 9 State releases Corrections audit

How about it Sac-Bee, care to do some real reporting, and tell us all how much the Federal Jundge (sic) Thelton Henderson and Federal Receiver J Clark Kelso has cost CDCR and the tax payers of this State?

We suggest you check out these stories: "Prison medical plan may far exceed need," "Receiver paid 7 more than state's prison director." Despite those stories, the cost of the federal receiver's plans need continual reporting. The request, despite its combative tone, is reasonable.

That doesn't invalidate the newsworthiness of this audit, however. The news was specifically focused on the state's audit of Corrections. Had the audit been about the receiver, we'd have written about it.

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September 18, 2009
Blog Back: Holidays, 'hits,' and Highway Patrol

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Your humble blogger is off work from now until Sept. 29. Our Capitol Bureau colleagues will keep things going, and we have a few items to post while we're gone. So keep checking in.

Aug. 31 SEIU files another furlough lawsuit

Interesting how the English language allows for interpretation:

So, "SEIU files ANOTHER furlough lawsuit", huh? What, are we boring you, Ortiz? Do you find unions defending the legal rights of their members monotenous (sic)? It sure seems that no matter how often we're vindicated in the courts (see below), State employees and our unions will NEVER be treated fairly in the Bee.

The caps were the commenter's addition to the headline. They effectively conveyed his or her interpretation of "another" as downplaying the importance of the lawsuit. We didn't use the word intending to convey that. But with 19 lawsuits in the courts -- and Local 1000 now a party in five of them -- we used "another" to mean "additional" or "one of several."

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August 26, 2009
Blog back: Total losses, tactics, the tentative agreement

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Aug. 20 CASE files grievance over holiday changes

What I don't understand is I thought I read that in exchange for losing the two holidays that State workers would receive two personal holidays in exchange. Is that still right? When do those personal holidays get posted on the workers leave balances? It still baffles me that taking two holidays and changing them for two personal holidays somehow sames money, anyway.

The state savings from the tradeoff in the contract would have come from no longer paying a holiday premium to covered employees who worked Columbus Day or Lincoln's Birthday. But the administration accomplished the same thing legislatively -- without giving state workers the two floating days off to compensate.

One state worker put it this way, "If you look at it, lawmakers have imposed the concessions in the tentative agreement with none of the protections."

To read the response to this post and to read other blog backs, click the link below.

August 21, 2009
Blog back: Controversy, the contract and contrasting attitudes

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

We're off next week, but Andrew McIntosh and the rest of the crew at The Bee's Capitol Bureau will feed TSW until we return on Aug. 31.

Aug. 10 Read the controversial 'retail e-mail' from Department of Health

It's not this memo that's offensive; it's the situation.

Well said.

Mr. Ortiz,

As an intrepid reporter, could you please provide us with your definition of "controversial" since there does not appear to be anything close to that in this e-mail.

For our response and to read more blog backs, click the link below.

August 14, 2009
Blog back: The money, the mandate and the memo

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Aug. 6 State Fund bonus hits a snag

And, don't forget a point that Ortiz conveniently fails to mention is his post, which is that much of the money used by State Fund to pay its expenses, salaries and claim costs comes not from premiums, but from INVESTMENTS - like all insurers!! How typically misleading of Ortiz to suggest that these puny awards are being directly paid for by our policyholders. Of course, no one objects to the huge bonuses paid by State Fund's BOARD to its president and other CEAs on top of bloated salaries. No surprise -Most of the Board are Arnold appointees! More State Fund and state employee bashing from the Bee as usual. Thanks for nothing Ortiz.

The report that the award money comes from policyholder premiums reflects what we were told by State Fund spokeswoman Jennifer Vargen, and no fund official has since corrected our post. It sounds to us like this is a distinction without a difference, but we'll double-check.

Our intention wasn't to "bash." We wanted to make certain that TSW users understood that the money wasn't coming from the general fund, a point that anyone unfamiliar with State Fund's unique status wouldn't know.

Aug. 7 CHP to graduate largest class in department history today

This post prompted a heated discussion about about CHP officers:

Someone please explain CHP's mission? I find it hard to believe they are even necessary when local and county sheriffs could do the same job for millions less. These guys are so cocky and arrogant because they think they're untouchable. ... Dangerous job? give me a break, I could think of 20 jobs more dangerous for a lot less money and a lot more work. Enjoy it while you can rookies.
FACT: There are now 183 fine officers out there doing something more useful than the whiners on this blog.
They deserve it, and I'm not going to bash these people for going to work just like the rest of us trying to make a living and make ends meet. Am I jealous yes, do I agree no, however anyone that is successful getting anything from the GAS other than a kick in the blank in these times is doing alright (sic), and good for them.

They will need the additional positions when they dump 40,000 plus inmates back on our streets, and this is going to happen real soon.

The court order handed down Tuesday gave the state 45 days to come up with a plan to cut the prison inmate population and two years to execute the plan. A government appeal could string things out longer than that. Click here to read The Bee's report by Denny Walsh and Sam Stanton. And you can read the court ruling by clicking this link.

Aug. 7 Read the letters from DPA to State Fund about the $250 award

The tiff over State Fund's plan to give a little extra cash to all its employees turned thoughts of some state workers to a check they hope to see if/when the courts overturn the governor's furloughs:

Back pay & full pay. They can keep their award...It was a nice gesture (or an attempt anyway) ...
Back Pay, Full Pay, Time, Retroactive, and then damages, should be a nice little settlement!

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August 10, 2009
Blog back: CalTrans, the calculator and corraling state worker news

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

July 27 You know the state's in a budget hole when...

This is nothing new. Paper, pens, three-ring binders, printer ink, you name it, its hard to get your hands on even when there is a budget. Last year we were out of ink for two months and got yelled at for using the printer down the hall because it didn't "belong" to our project. I buy my own office supplies and bring them to work. It beats doing 3 hours of paperwork and phone calls to get a dozen three ring binders

We hear these kinds of stories regularly, but rarely do we get memos that so clearly illustrate the problem.

One user suggested a way to mitigate supply shortages:

They should have a "common" bulletin board where offices can post what supplies they need and other offices could reply if they have some they can spare. I made this suggestion within our Department but they shot it down. Go figure...

July 27 No fourth furlough day to make up budget shortfall

Within 3 months when the budget comes up billions short GAS will impose every friday as a furlough friday. All the Schmucks did was kick the can down the road. The future cuts will be more painful than if the bleeps in Sacto would have done their job. But its politics as usual.

We agree: Never say never when it comes a fourth "Furlough Friday," given the state of California's economy.

If revenues continue to dwindle and the general fund continues to crumble, as Bee colleague Dan Walters expects, lawmakers could be back to talking about more budget cuts. It's hard to imagine that the governor would leave state workers out of that conversation.

Here comes Federal Minimum Wage!!!!

You won't see that idea come back until next summer, and only if lawmakers don't agree on a 2010-11 budget . The governor can't impose the minimum wage when money has been appropriated for state employee payroll. That happened in February with the first iteration of the the 2009-10 budget. So now we'll have to wait and see what happens with negotiations for the coming fiscal year.

July 28 Caltrans workers on furlough Friday didn't get overtime

Thank you CalTrans for doing your job. Some of us have to be bigger than the little people. Your actions do not go unnoticed.
The facility I work at has about 50 people retiring between now and the end of the year because of the moronators actions. We're going to be hurting big.

We've heard from several long-time state workers that furloughs have pushed them to consider retiring earlier than they'd planned. Is that going to speed up institutional memory and skill losses? If you have a story to tell about furlough-prompted early retirements your department, let us know.

July 29 State worker news from Sacramento, the state and the nation

Sacramento Bee: What happened with the story about the Cal Trans engineer who stated that there were private contractors working on "Furlough Friday"???

We don't recall that story right off. Perhaps someone will shoot us an e-mail to jog our memory or post a comment here to help out this user.

By the way, we're now using Publish2 to link to news stories of state worker interest, and the service also archives older links. You'll find the continually updated list on the right side of this page under "Recommended Links." At the bottom of that section you can click on "More State Worker Links" to see the full archive.

Occasionally we'll see a story that we think deserves extra attention, and we'll post it to the blog as a separate item. And if you see a story that we've missed, let us know.

July 29 What will your paycheck look like?

I try to give the Bee the benefit of the doubt that it does not deliberately attempt to incite resentment against state workers, I really do. But to see the "sample" state worker salary indicated in this spreadsheet as an outrageous $10,000 a month, it is very difficult to do so. Half of that amount would be a little less blatant, and about a third would be the most accurate representation of what "Joe State Worker" really makes.
July 31, 2009
Blog back: View a state worker's pay stubs pre- and post-furlough

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Dollars and cents.jpg

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

This special edition blog back addresses our July 27 post, "View a state worker's pay stubs pre- and post-furlough."

Although commenters to this blog often ask for specific information about how furloughs are impacting state workers, it appears that a few didn't understand why we posted these two pay stubs from one state worker, one before furlough and one after furlough.

Many of the comments to the post were angry. Others contained misconceptions about the purpose of the post or how we got the information.

The biggest gripe was the pay of the person who provided the pay stubs. Apparently many commenters believe that users of this blog lack the sophistication to understand that a single person's earnings do not represent the entire state workforce. The percentage cut to gross pay does cut across income levels, however, and we thought the before-and-after comparison an interesting way to show how one person is coping with furloughs.

Other commenters seem to want any reference to a state worker's pay put into a larger context, a defensive posture that we're not willing to assume.

It would have been better to find someone that made no changes to withholdings, etc. so the impact on someone's net pay would be clearer.

We didn't seek out the state worker who made the offer to share the information; that person came to us. We accepted because we recognized the rare opportunity.

For impact on net pay, plug figures into the furlough calculator posted on this blog.

Hey Sac Bee - why don't you show what the average persons paystub is instead of this? Show the person who makes a 2500.00 salary and deduct the 3 days and post that!

Another state worker who makes less has offered to share this same information next month after the July furloughs kick in. If all goes according to plan, we'll post those redacted pay stubs next week.

But here's where it gets tricky. If you consider showing pay data for someone who makes $73,000 per year as spin, then isn't showing pay information for someone who makes $30,000 per year also spin?

You are nothing but pandering to the governor and his hate state worker's agenda. You have no problem showing things about the state worker but offer no comparison of what the same person makes in private sector.

July 27, 2009
Blog back: Diversity, demeaning comments, divided opinions

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

The number of comments, e-mails and phone calls responding to this blog and our weekly State Worker column has increased over the last several weeks, so we're still a bit behind on blogging back. We hope to catch up this week.

Note: Sacramento Bee intern Sarah Frier will be posting some items to TSW this week and working with us on a couple of news stories. We're happy she's helping out.

July 7 CalTrans wins diversity award

It seems to me, if I remember correctly...the biggest construction failure mentioned in the Bible was the Tower of Babel. And the cause of that failure was diversity. It makes one think....does history really repeat itself?

The commenter is referring to an infrastructure an ancient civilization failed to deliver, according to Genesis 11:7, because the Lord "confused their language." (The scripture is silent on whether the job was being handled by state workers or outside contractors.)

July 8 Next hearing in State Fund furlough case set for Thursday; SEIU wants in

Sacramento Bee, please see that you are not a vehicle for red-faced hate spitters. They contribute nothing to the human dialogue and the world is a better place if they just keep their rage and social hatred to themselves. I think they should just go crawl under a rock. Thank you for taking the time.

Ironic that a commenter blasts "red-faced hate spitters" for failing to make significant contributions to the public discourse and concludes that the louts should "crawl under a rock."

Speaking as an occasional target of personal attacks by users across the political spectrum, we don't condone ad hominems. However, we view some of that junk as the price of keeping this blog a place for the airing of ideas and observations. We find many comments are useful and have gained insights and culled story ideas from them.

But there are rules of the road. We suggest that anyone who posts to any item on become familiar with the Web site's policies. To read the rules, which also are posted via a link at the top of every comment section on, click here.

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July 17, 2009
Blog back: Colleague's coverage, CHP, cancelled savings

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Between our vacation (a belated thanks to Andrew McIntosh for filling in), the 5 percent pay cut / fourth "Furlough Friday" news, covering union strike talk and keeping up on your calls and e-mails, blog backs have fallen a bit behind. Look for a few more BBs next week as we catch up.

July 3 Blog back: An invite for Meg, car washes, CHP raises and state vehicles

Andrew, You are definitely a much better moderator, and writer than Ortiz. Please don't leave. A level head, sense of humor, and maybe a wee bit of respect for the state (workers and persons) is much appreciated. Thanks!

Sorry that we don't meet the blog user's standards, but at least he or she has set a high bar.

July 5 UPDATE: Sunday reading: State worker blasts The Bee; story on local impact of furloughs, layoffs

Still waiting for the Bee's coverage of the current status of the non-furloughed state employees in Hawaii. After all, the Bee opened the door.

We're happy that users have come to depend on this blog for state worker news, although we freely admit that we have a tough time just keeping up with developments in our own state. However, we're hoping that our new Publish2 system will help streamline newslink posts. And users are always welcomed to send us a quick e-mail with news stories that they think blogworthy.

There was some state worker news out of Hawaii on Thursday, by the way. Click here for our round up of recent state worker news from around the country, including the latest from Hawaii.

Read more blog backs by clicking the link below.

July 3, 2009
Blog back: An invite for Meg, car washes, CHP raises and state vehicles

Blog back reviews your thoughtful and provocative online comments, answers your questions, corrects our mistakes and humbly accepts your warranted criticism.

Andrew McIntosh here, I've been bench-warming for our main man, Jon Ortiz, for the past week. I've enjoyed your e-mails, comments, thoughts and e-blasts.

Happy Independence Day! Jon is back next week.

July 2: State engineers vow legal challenge to block third furlough day

I became an engineer for the state because I wanted to serve the public. First I went into private, since I would make more, and I thought I would still serve the public by working on state projects. But once I saw the poor ethics and greed of the private sector ripping off the state, I realized that I had to work, for less, in government. I have a master's degree, I work hard every day, and I am willing to take furloughs (without striking)if it helps the economy. But I get really tired of hearing all the bashing when I have worked so hard to better California's infrastructure for the people.

July 2: Car wash fundraisers to raise cash for suffering state workers?

I find this whole topic belittling state workers and demeaning. I would not recommend anyone posting it.

How is it demeaning to state workers for us report that one state worker wants to help herself and others by organizing car washes to have a few laughs and raise a little money for each other. If we offended, we're sorry.

Forget car washes. How about the union ceasing to deduct fair share and/or member fees entirely until June, 2010?? This would be the right thing to do wouldn't it?

Now, there's a solid idea! SEIU, ready to give your members a dues holiday?

July 1: Whitman says 'at least' 17,000 mid-level state workers need to go

Cutting the state workforce is a great idea (it is too bloated), but by just throwing out numbers in backwater towns, Meg is so far from solving the problem that anything she says is just white noise. Why not have Meg come to a "company town" and explain to those who are directly effected (sic) why she thinks this is a great idea?

It is abundantly obvious that Meg has no clue about how the state really runs. If she were to eliminate 17,000 middle management positions, our state would literally come to a screeching halt. Why? Because Upper Management hasn't a clue as to what the worker bees do. They are forever in meetings trying to make things more efficient, but it always ends up more convoluted than before because they do not talk with the little people actually doing the work! Heaven help us all if she get a foot hold in Sacramento. Oy.

So there you have it, Ms. Whitman. Let's have you in to The Bee's Capitol Bureau for a chat. We're the paper in the company town, after all.

June 30: CHP officers plan 'maximum enforcement period' for July 4 festivities

We revealed that CHP officers may get a raise thanks to its contract - something to celebrate as its officers work OT on July Fourth -- even as it escapes furloughs imposed on other state workers.

The officers who protect us from drunks on the road deserve exactly what they bargained for in their contract.
CHP should take a cut like everyone else. Not only are they not taking a cut, they get a raise.

A very impassioned debate here. Thanks to all for sharing your views.

June 30: Driving a state vehicle? Be careful what you use it for, you never know who's watching, DGS advises

A common response to notification of underutilized state vehicles is a supervisor decision to send the vehicles home with employees. This then accrues enough mileage to meet the minimum requirment and they keep the vehicle/s. Another common "justification" is that the state vehicle parking location is labelled "unsecure" or otherwise "unsafe" therefore again "requiring" sending the state vehicle home with employeess. Without distinctly separating commute vs. official business miles, the state cannot determine proper vehicle utilization and probably doesn't properly account for the personal benefit to the employee for tax purposes.

In my use of state vehicles, I could see it misconstrued if while I'm traveling for out of town meetings, I have to get food or supplies at a store or restaurant. For that reason, we try to use unmarked vehicles when doing legitimate business in a place like Monterey. But, in the past I had a supervisor who used this assigned work vehicle as a personal vehicle, and when I needed to borrow it I'd have to clean out the dog fur so that I wouldn't be covered in fur when I got where I was going.

June 29: Hell in Hawaii: state workers face three furlough days a month - until 2011

I am just wondering why the BEE is so compassionate by calling this furloughing state workers in Hawaii "Hell in Hawaii" and not what happened to "Hell in California"? Is this a double standard or what?

Any weak-kneed milksops out there that think three or four furlough days a month are hell should consider (I mean really, as opposed to wallowing in self-pity) people who have already lost their jobs and houses.

Double standard? Not at all. We've done several posts and news reports about the impact that furloughs are having on state workers and the small businesses that serve them. The furloughs have been very hard on families where both spouses work for the state.

The purpose of our Hawaii update was to let readers know about similar developments in other nearby states. Sadly, furloughs are becoming a national occurrence.

June 29: State motor vehicle insurance premiums going up -- 13 percent

Another idea to assess the costs of accidents in DGS vehicles to the departments of the drivers responsible was also shot down. This would have held the departments responsible rather than spreading excessive insurance costs across all DGS fleet customers. As it is, there is no incentive for agencies to monitor or hold responsible their drivers who cause multiple accidents while driving DGS vehicles. They get another DGS car at the same rate. Give 'em another car and send 'em on their way!!

Discouraging, yes, but don't forget their rates do rise over time if they have more smash ups.

June 26: Lottery Commission approves $53.7 million plan for new headquarters

At this time, why does the lottery commission need new headquarters.?? Can't they just freeze hiring, move desks and telephones a little closer? Most people quit playing the lottery because they lost their jobs and homes. Money for the new headquarters could be given to schools as it was intended.
Selling scratchers to poor people pays off.

We agree with both of you. The optics of building a new HQ right now are not great, despite the explanations given by the Lottery Commission.

June 26: California National Guard member wins Army muscle contest in Iraq

What does this have to do with State employees.

The California National Guard is also called the California State Military Department. It's financed partly by the state and the federal government. Sgt. Erica Rinard, the bodybuilder and mechanic serving in Iraq, is a bona fide state worker.

June 29, 2009
Blog back: A link, a lousy boss and a lawsuit

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

June 19 Investigators search former State Fund board member's home, office

Why even post this with so little information?

The post contained a link to the entire story for users who wanted more details.

June 21 Sunday reading: State worker writes op-ed; unions' 'public enemy No. 1'

How are unions public enemy no. 1? Unions are the only way that workers have rights. Without unions, everyone would be a Wal-Mart greeter - No medical, dental, $8 / hour corporate slaves that can't even work a full-time week, they get 30 hours of work per week, because giving them 40 hours means they have to give benefits.

The user misread the headline, which refers to Marcia Fritz as being the unions' enemy. The apostrophe after the "s" is the tipoff. In retrospect, we could have written a better headline to avoid this understandable confusion.

June 22 Caltrans chief hits the road; Caltrans building wins design award

You will see similar migration out of State government by a large segment of the best/brightest/most talented employees. When you betray the promise of public sector employment...job security and benefits, expect a brain drain to commence. I predict that in 5-8 years, when the economy is humming along again and the boomers are retiring en masse, many state agencies will be screwed, having lost the institutional knowledge and continuity these depts depend on to function.

One of the many ironies of the current crisis is that the state knows it needs to do a better job of attracting younger workers but enacts policies -- furloughs, layoffs, threats to temporarily cut wages to the federal minimum, and the like -- that do the opposite. Our first TSW column nearly a year ago noted the state's reputation as a lousy boss. If anything, things are worse now than they were then.

June 23 Union exec: Governor's aide said third and fourth furlough days possible

Ok, so what ever happened to the law suit (sic) the Union put together to stop the furloughs? I know that this one judge here in sac.(sic) sided with GAS, but I thought that it was going up the line to another court, it's been a long time, whats going on SEIU.

The case is in Sacramento's 3rd District Court of Appeals. The court has not scheduled the matter for a hearing yet. You can see the register of actions taken in the case by clicking here.

A bit of a fear-mongering story by the Bee, IMHO. Why publish this now if the story is based on quotations from before the May 19th elections? You simply allow GAS the opportunity to further sabre rattle and threaten us needlessly.

A fair criticism.This was a tough call that we mulled over for quite some time. We decided that it would be better to be criticized for "fear-mongering" than living with the feeling that we held back information. Our thinking:

(1) Our source was a high-ranking union official and law enforcement officer who gave us the information on the record. We trusted his accuracy.

(2) Susan Kennedy is Schwarzenegger's chief of staff. We felt like that raised stakes and the urgency to report it, despite the lapse of time. Put it this way: If the governor had said something similar and we found out about it a month later, we'd report it. Kennedy's rank added news value to the information.

(3) Had Kennedy denied that she said a fourth furlough day is possible, we'd have reported that as well. She didn't.

June 24 State worker suggests how to fix the budget

Notice this is the one the Bee chose to put. The one that closely resembles their own agenda of course. Put the bulk of the burden on State Workers. And isn't it nice that a State Employee wrote the article.

Our "agenda" is to air interesting, provocative ideas and promote good discussion. We assume that state workers are individuals with divergent points of view. And we respect users of this blog enough to assume that they can handle ideas that don't always confirm that they already believe to be true.

Dave Massengale is right-on-target. True and accurate. Some one wake up the Schwarz....
Leave it to Jon Ortiz to post a letter from a state worker that advocates cutting his own pay but can't express it in proper English ... Oh, and isn't there a douche named after this guy?

Putting your name with your ideas requires conviction and fortitude, which is why we always appreciate TSW users willing to become one-time "guest bloggers" on this site. We're also encouraged by the fact that no matter how derogatory the comments on this blog, those users make up a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of visits to The State Worker each month.

June 22, 2009
Blog back: a launch, a lawsuit, an LAO analysis and legislation

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

June 9 Administration launches new waste reporting Web site

These comments represent many of the comments, calls and e-mails that we received about the new Waste Watchers site. The administration says that it has received many good suggestions, but comments on this blog reveal that some state workers harbor hard feelings toward Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger personally and generally mistrust the bureaucracy.

This is not about soliciting good ideas. It is about bashing and scapegoating state employees. He wants us to give him the ammunition to eliminate our jobs.
I agree with the other posters that this website is a Trojan Horse meant to undermine state employees. The governator and his cronies will take the information provided and use it against us. I also feel the same way about the Whistle Blowers hotline.
I have stuff I'd like to report, but I'm not going to do so through THIS could be used against me later. Give me a place to report things anonymously that isn't connected in any way, manner, shape or form with Schwarzenegger and I'll be happy to say what I need to say. Until then...not a word!
This is a site where state workers can shoot themselves in the foot. What a ploy by the Governator? Anybody posting here will just provide him more ammunition to do more layoffs and cut your pay even more.
What a publicity seeking Governor we have.
Yeah, I can see it now, I saw my co-worker take a pencil home. They will spend $50k to investigate a penny loss.
The only thing I would like to report to the Waste Watchers website is the Waste Watchers website. You are talking about laying off people who do actual work and provide needed services, while at the same time creating more fluff like this website and the positions to "monitor" it.

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June 15, 2009
Blog back: 'Hitler,' helpful stats and a hero

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

June 4 The governor, the Web and The Bee

Ask him why he doesn't go back to Austria and leave us alone? Tell him he can go visit the ruins of Hitler's concentration camps and have a good old time.

References on this blog that cast the governor's policies toward state workers as somehow analogous to Hitler's killing of millions of Jews are shopworn overstatements that downplay the significance of the Holocaust. Analyzing the merits of policy is far more convincing than ad hominems on the governor's ethnicity.

June 4 CalPERS' issues scam alert

Another question is why is CalPERS furloughing their workers when they are not part of the general fund?

This question regularly comes up as new users come to this blog, so we don't mind revisiting CalPERS' answer. Click here to read what CalPERS CEO Anne Stausboll said to employees in March about the fund's furlough policy.

June 5 UPDATED: State Fund final ruling handed down

CASE attorney Patrick Whalen, who was on the winning side in the recent State Fund furlough lawsuit against the governor, has become something of a hero to state workers:

All of this from a STATE employed attorney who earned less than $90,000 in 2008, far less for the entire year than the fees paid by GAS to the attorneys handling this suit on behalf of the Governor defending his Order. Now tell me who is underpaid/overpaid in this scenario!! The STATE Attorney, that's who.
As the first group of attorneys to win against the Governor on this Executive Order issue, CONGRATULATIONS. I am glad the State has good attorneys on the payroll.

Actually, Whalen is a former state attorney of 19 years. He left in 2008 for a better deal in the private sector. "I was forced to put the needs of my family above the personal gratification I received from serving the public," he told us in an e-mail.

June 8 SEIU says Schwarzenegger's transparency plan flawed

Posting raw numbers does nothing except give a running total of outsourced work. What is needed is a breakdown of what the contract covers and why state workers are unable/unqualified to produce the product/service contracted for. Until that happens, all Arnie is doing is rattling off numbers without context.

The "why" behind vendor contracts is the source of unending debate. Still, it would be helpful if departments developed a basic set of criteria included with posted contract data that explained the rationale for contract decisions. Is that possible? Or are contract decisions too nuanced and case-by-case to explain them succinctly and consistently across California's vast bureaucracy?

June 8, 2009
Blog back: CHP, cuts and CalPERS

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Note: We've updated recent posts this morning with new links and information. Scroll down the TSW homepage to see them.

May 29 'You can't discount anything' on furloughs

Hey Jon,

The next time to (sic) talk to McLear, you might mention (if you think of it) that some of us state employees wouldn't mind having the state shut down every Friday.

It seems unlikely the state will shut down one day each week because dark government buildings are a political liability, as this story points out.

What about cuts for California Highway Patrol? Make all cuts fair across the board!!

The administration has said its pay cut proposal includes CHP officers, even though their bargaining unit is under contract, unlike every other unionized state worker group. You can read what California Association of Highway Patrolmen Executive Director Jon Hamm said in our Sunday story that ran on page A1 of the fiber Bee by clicking here.

Wow, slant your articles much Sacbee? I dont know about these contractors but when I used to do contract work for the state I charged $200/hr. Whats more, I charged interest when they paid me late! I dont think there are many state workers making that much. But hey Jon Ortiz, I guess that doesnt fit into your anti-worker agenda does it. Are you Jim Hill using a new pen name? Had to switch names after you were discredited?
A personal services contract is a contract with a company to provide people to do some work. In theory, these services require specialized skills that state workers may not have, or they are for a such a short term project that it is not feasible to hire state workers to do it.

In practice, some of these contracts are for normal skills that most state workers are capable of and can go on for years.

This is the crux of the debate over the state's outside contracting practices. The problem with universal assertions about private services contracts is that the generalizations usually focus on a single issue: pay. But as the second post noted, there are other issues in play, such as the existing skill level of state workers, the cost of training to raise those skill levels and the expense of potential lifetime employment / retirement / benefits.

That can make cost comparisons difficult.

We don't think that the post was slanted. It merely noted key information lacking in the union's assertion. It's the same kind of thing that we questioned in this blog back post about Meg Whitman's assertion that state government can be cut by 30,000 to 40,000 jobs without impacting services.

... Most private sector layoffs come because there is not enough work for the employees on the payroll. However, with government that is not always true. With a recession, there is usually more work for most of government employees. For example, more people are applying for unemployment benefits during a recession than in prosperous times. So, state employees, as well as most local employees, get hit twice as hard. There is more work than ever before, but you get less pay for doing...more work!

This argument implies that government job growth reacts to the economy. That would mean the bureaucracy should slim down when the economy is strong, but it doesn't. Our opinion: Since government revenue is limited only by what it forces citizens to pay, its size is more a function of politics than economics.

You can read more blog backs by clicking the link below.

May 29, 2009
Blog back: Ill will, identity and integrity

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

It was a week of messenger shooting here at The State Worker blog.

May 21 Legislative Analyst: Dump SEIU contract, add a furlough day


You're invited to my party when you get laid off. As The Bee continues to hemorrhage and downsize, it's inevitable you'll experience standing in the unemployment line. Do you have a wife and kids? Better start getting them to search for jobs. It's hard to make ends meet on unemployment. So be careful of what you wish for with state workers in your biased articles as karma comes around.

A careful read of the post will reveal that we didn't express any "wish" for state worker furloughs.

I wonder does (sic) the cuts in service and pay include the legislative analyst & staff as well? Inquiring minds want to know.

LAO employees work for the Legislature and are exempt from the furlough order.

SEIU was for 1A, not against it. Please get your facts straight.

SEIU Local 1000 was neutral on Prop 1A. Meanwhile, the SEIU State Council opposed the measure and put up money to fight it. We noted the union's split position in this blog post.

Click the following link to continue reading blog backs.

May 26, 2009
Blog back: 'Baffle-gab,' budget ideas and baffled about layoffs

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Blog posts about Meg Whitman's run for governor always draw plenty of comments from users who agree with her assertion that state government jobs should be drastically cut and users who think that she's truly gone 'round the bend.
May 18 Whitman repeats her 10 percent solution for the state bureaucracy

Commission a blue ribbon panel to examine the issue and then form a committee to lead the task force designed to develop the team by reviewing options and scrutinizing applications for the work group selected to actually study the problem. Then empower a steering committee to solicit input from stakeholders with the intent to hire consultants to vet the derivative of your drill down analysis and validate the extensive outcomes with a steady bias towards reducing your spending while maximizing return on investment. Then you take your deliverables and hope the economy has turned around and everyone has forgotten the issue while you have been diligently working towards a resolution.

An outstanding example of bureaucratese that would have made Philip Broughton proud. Broughton popularized the "Baffle-gab Guide," a handy reference for anyone wishing to sound official and mean absolutely nothing. Click here to see his tribute to confused language.


Our take: Whitman has yet to offer specifics about how she would get legislators and institutions such as the university systems that are outside executive control to go along with her vision of downsizing the state workforce. Without those details, it's hard to see how she would achieve her goal of axing 30,000 to 40,000 state employees.

Read more blog backs by clicking the link below ...

May 22, 2009
A state employee talks about negative press

Our blog back last week responded to a user's comment that a colleague who fed The State Worker while we took a vacation had fanned "the fires of anti-labor hatred" with this post on the rising cost of state worker health benefits.

Part of what we said was,

"Should this blog ignore news about the rising costs of state worker benefits? What about state worker fraud and abuse stories? Nepotism? Or stories that put lawmakers or the governor in an unflattering light? Is our obligation to report the news as best we can, or filter it based on who it might offend, inflame or support?"

The next day, Dwain Barefield sent this thoughtful e-mail, challenging us to consider the power of words to shape perception. With his permission, we're sharing it. unedited. Consider it a blog back to our blog back.

Click the link below to read Dwain's e-mail.

May 21, 2009
Blog back: A prize winner, a public figure and a prophet

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

April 30 Cost of retired state worker health, dental care puts California at risk

Who is Andrew McIntosh, and why does he fan the fires of anti-labor hatred?

090522 McINTOSH.jpgAndrew, pictured right, kept the blog active while we were on vacation. He's an award-winning investigative journalist who recently he won a Best of the West general reporting award and recognition by the Society of American Business Editors & Writers for his reporting on the dangers of nail guns.

Did he post the blog item simply to "fan the fires of anti-labor hatred?"

We'll answer the question with a few of our own: Should this blog ignore news about the rising costs of state worker benefits? What about state worker fraud and abuse stories? Nepotism? Or stories that put lawmakers or the governor in an unflattering light? Is our obligation to report the news as best we can, or filter it based on who it might offend, inflame or support?

It's interesting that the day after Andrew reported on state worker health care costs, he posted this item:

May 1 Contracts in place for drugs, supplies to fight H1N1 virus

Excellent reporting!!! It is a good thing to read about state services responding so quickly to emerging public health challenges. These contracts demonstrate foresight competence does exist within the state bureaucracy.

May 12 SEIU Local 1000 members stage protest at Niello auto dealership

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Niello.JPGThese two takes represent the wide range of reaction to car dealer/Assemblyman Roger Niello (at right) and his role in leading the Republican resistance to the SEIU Local 1000 labor pact:

OK my next car is coming from a niello (sic) dealership. He voted for the budget deal despite it being practically GOP suicide. He was completely correct in stalling the ratification of any contract pending the adoption of the revenue streams it was based on. Failure to do that could only result in more lost state worker jobs in his district if the deal is not passed by voters and we start cutting programs. He has the brains to know his district needs a state budget and the wisdom to minimize the downside damage of it falling apart.
I would just go into any one of his dealerships, pick out the priciest model, let the saleperson drool over the pending purchase and his / her commission, meanwhile they are prepping the car, filling the paperwork, pulling the from inventory...and when it comes times to sign -- walk out to the bathroom and then off the lot ...

A juvenile prank that, unlike legitimate protests, would make no statement other than a comment on the prankster's cowardice and immaturity.

May 12 Schwarzenegger looking at state workforce cuts

The governor telegraphed that layoffs were coming, spurring charges like this one:

... Arhnold (sic) and crew never had any intention of bargaining in good faith. This is about breaking the union. No doubt about it.

That elicited this response:

"This is about breaking the union." It's so embarrassing to be associated in any way with people that think this way. Breaking the union is a total non-issue, $22B in the hole is a serious issue. All it takes is two neurons to rub together to understand this, and only one if you happen to be invested in CA debt.

Speculation over the governor's feelings about unions aside, this user made points that turned out to be prophetic, given the departments and job classes targeted last week for layoffs:

An interesting thing to keep in mind about State worker cuts, many Departments are funded with federal funds or by revenue generating activities (licensing, certification, inspections, etc) . Those state workers salaries are paid with federal funds or by the licensing fund. Cutting those workers does not help the General Fund in any way. Also, the Feds usually put a "maintenance of Effort" clause to their funding. so if you cut General fund from a program or department the feds fund, they will reduce their allocation by a similar amount. So cutting General fund in primarily federally funded agencies could lose total dollars and support for California. Also it doesn't make much sense to me eliminate positions that generate money for the state.

Another user pointed out that SEIU Local 1000 sold its members on their most recent contract -- which includes one furlough day per month -- in part by raising the specter of layoffs, deeper pay cuts and hits to benefits if the rank-and-file failed to ratify the deal.

Well is anyone surprised by this, well the UNION, because they can't see beyond one month. Everyone saw this coming that works for the state. Arnold was never going to hold to the 5% cut and no layoffs, but the UNION bought it big time ...

IMAGES: Andrew McIntosh / Sacramento Bee file photo; Roger Niello /, Hector Amezcua

April 27, 2009
Blog back: Reporting, rumors and raw nerves

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Note: This blog back is our last post until we return from vacation on May 11. Our talented Bee Capitol Bureau colleagues will keep The State Worker fed while we're gone.

April 21 Donate $100K, eat with the governor; union spends $500K to defeat 1A

We took out some of the disparaging lines of this post to get to the interesting nut of the comment:

... nothing is simple with SEIU. Local 1000, big as it is, with 94,000 some odd members is only about 15% or so of the SEIU State Council. So bottom line, even though their MOU was at stake in Local 1000 the rest of the State Council voted to oppose Prop 1A.

Makes you wonder... Is SEIU too big to manage?

Here's one way to see Local 1000's numerical place in SEIU's California universe: If the union overall were a gallon of water, Local 1000's workers would be a bit more than a pint.

Arnold can't very well visibly kill his own agreement. But he WAS double crossed. It's so obvious. It is right there in front of you! So, now the word is out. Arnold doesn't want any Republicans to vote for it.

A popular rumor that as far as we can tell is without merit. We've asked around and no Republicans, even off the record, have said that this is part of the political calculus behind AB 964.

If I give arnold (sic) $100,000, will the threats of paying me federal minimum wage stop? Will I get my full time job back, my two lost holidays, per diem equal to the Legislature, and parity with other CA government attorneys? Isn't this how the Big Dogs roll? Woof.

It's how they roll on both sides of the aisle. Remember the hundreds of thousands of dollars former state Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland, took in for his anti-Prop. 11 campaign? If you've forgotten the details, stroll down memory lane with this blog post.

sacramento_capitol.jpgApril 22 Read about the state workers who recently received raises

This post raised an interesting question: Are folks working in the Legislature really state workers? We've always thought they are ...

... state workers are very different than legislative scales, civil service rules, and salary structures are all far too different. The headline is misleading as a result.
Again Jon, get your facts straight -- most state workers are forced to take two (2) upaid furlough days each month, most of which DOES NOT save the state any money and even COSTS THE STATE MONEY in those instances of federally or special funded agencies. Wouldn't it be easier to use the facts than to continually make your "data" up as you churn out each article?

We understand state workers' raw nerves over all things furlough. It's a stressful topic that we always try to approach with great care.

What prompted the comment, we assume, comes from the section we cited from a story by colleague Jim Sanders. (If it's in a gray box, it's not our words.)

However, we didn't read the phrase, "... state workers are required to take an unpaid furlough each month," as meaning one day. It's a reference to the policy. It would have been incorrect if it read, "... required to take an unpaid furlough day each month." Still, the phrase could have been more precise.

As to Jim's summary that the policy is in place "to save money," well, that is the stated reason. Whether the ultimate outcome is otherwise wasn't the point of his story.

April 22 Assembly official expects SEIU contract bill 'will get done'

This commenter criticized your humble blogger for failing to jump on the AB 964 rumors early enough:

Mr. Ortiz .. I am little shocked that you have not written about this issue. I know you see the writing on the wall. Why is the governor not being questioned about this. I think everyone can see what his intentions are and secretly have been ... Can you tell me why no one has asked the gov what his plans are regarding all the state workers contracts that are expired...does he plan to make all the state workers suffer through more furlough's since ballot initiative look doomed? Mr. Ortiz I respect what you do, but given the title of the column you write, why the silence with respect to the person who has all the power...the governor?

And another user was fed up with our "questionable morals" and "ability to dance around the truth," because, in the user's view, we posted unsubstantiated rumors:

... You cannot be trusted to tell the truth but you can be trusted to create non-stories to stir up peoples' emotions needlessly. Get counseling Jon. Or at least take a journalism class and learn how to accurately analyze the information before you publish it.

The legislative process is deliberative to the point of being glacial. Sometimes reporting goes at the same speed. And it should, particularly when the topic is volatile -- and the SEIU contract situation is one big emotional hot button.

We heard conflicting rumors for a couple of weeks about AB 964 (some first surfaced in comments on this blog), but getting anything on the record was extremely difficult. Sources would talk and then pull back. And no one was saying the same thing, so we didn't know what to think -- or report.

We did ask the administration for its position and reported it in this post. Ditto for Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines.

SEIU Local 1000 declined to talk to us about the bill.

As to expired contracts, we have reported several times about disputes between the administration and unions over how to treat so-called "evergreen" clauses with regard to furloughs and overtime. (Here's an example.)We assume (erroneously?) that blog users don't need or want for us to rewind those details in every post that addresses furloughs, pay or contracts.

The reports regarding the SEIU Bargining Unit Contracts being stalled in the Assembly Committees were very inaccurate.

We reported that the bill has moved more slowly through the Assembly than originally intended because Republicans weren't ready to move it quickly. We said it would move though committee to the Assembly floor and then probably wouldn't be voted on "for nearly a month." As of Friday, that was still true, from what we hear.

I thought the legislature passed the budget back in February for the rest of this fiscal year and next...therefore according the judge's ruling regarding minimum wages would not apply. Jon what are your thoughts?

Check the third item in this blog back post.

April 23 State worker rips Bass over raise rescission rationale

This post sparked an interesting and (mostly) civil debate about the power of unions in California state government. There were too many remarks to post them here, but we encourage you to click here to read the discussion.

See you in two weeks!

April 23, 2009
Blog back: Lingo, lawyers and legislation

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

April 17 Here's how to figure out (sorta) the drop-dead dates for state payroll changesboy_dunce-thumb-122x299-thumb-100x245-thumb-60x147.gif

My God, this is complicated...trying to follow the all the details is making me a little dizzy...
That's how everything is written in the State. I grimace everytime I have to fill out a stupid form and read the instructions for the form. The acronyms in everything kill me. CBID=Collective Bargining Identification. Why don't they just put "Bargining Unit #". Simple, easy to understand. Everything is so darn complicated and confusing.

We re-read the post and realized that we should have dumped the acronyms wherever possible. Reporting on state bureaucracy doesn't obligate us to write bureaucratically. We'll be on guard for this in the future.

April 17 How much furlough fights have cost the state; more about the SCIF lawsuit

I wonder if the state paid Kronick to work full time defending the state from its own lawyers --- who in turn are furloghed (sic) and can't defend the state against other lawsuits full time as part of their normal jobs. Follow that???

We asked DPA if its attorneys are subject to furlough. They are, but like all state employees, they can defer the time off as their work demands.

Last July (2008) 10,000 state workers had their employment terminated. That was the FIRST state employee transaction that GAS took. How soon some forget.

Or is it just more convenient to forget FACTS?

Executive Order S-09-08 didn't cut 10,000 part timers, retired annuitants and intermittent employees, which was the number the administration announced last year. As we reported a few weeks ago, it was more like 6,500. The numbers in this chart indicate that most of those jobs haven't come back.

... This is going to cost us tax payers, all of us ,to include State employees a lot more than $180,000 before it's all said and done.

We'll routinely report how much this package of litigation is costing California. We've also asked several unions how much they've spent. We'll report what they tell us -- or we'll report that they've declined to tell us.

Side note: We're told that some cases could continue beyond Schwarzenegger's term in office. That raises a question: Will the next governor continue to fight these battles?

April 20 SEIU labor contract stuck in Assembly ditch

This State Worker post took more comments than any other this week. Rants aside, the comments ranged from criticism of SEIU members for ratifying a concession-laden deal to analysis of why Republicans aren't quick to back a labor pact negotiated by their party's top official.

So nothing accomplished, and Arnold either is not negotiating in good faith or he is simply unable to reign in his party. Assembly Repub's seem amused to watch the State derail like a train in slow motion. Vote of no confidence in either case! This is bad for all parties involved. Moral and services suffer, as do the people of California whom State employees serve ...
"The motives and nature of the opposition to the bill remain unclear, but what will happen if the bill fails isn't. The union and DPA would have to reopen negotiations."

That's not what Local 1000 said would happen if the members failed to vote for ratification. If ratification failed we would see $6.55 an hour, 2 day furloughs (like we have now), increase out-of-pocket medical (like we have now), layoffs, permanent loss of two holidays (Does anyone think they are coming back?)

I trust my union so you must be misinformed.

There is no doubt that the union and the governor's representatives would have to renegotiate the SEIU deal if AB 964 fails. That's how the process works. Obviously, if Republicans were to kill the bill -- and no one has said to us on the record that's going to happen -- it wouldn't be because GOP lawmakers think the terms of the SEIU deal need to be more generous.

The moves that the governor can make unilaterally -- imposing the federal minimum wage, emergency furloughs -- have been topics of wide speculation and ongoing litigation. We'll just make a couple of points:Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Gavel.jpg

The governor's power to impose the federal minimum wage is tied to White v. Davis. The court said in that case that state workers' pay can be cut in the absence of money appropriated for wages in the state budget. So, when lawmakers deadlocked over the budget last summer, the door opened to temporarily cutting wages.

But now the state has money appropriated for wages through the 2009-10 fiscal year. It was part of the budget deal worked out in February. If the May 19 budget ballot measures fail and lawmakers have to reopen budget talks, will that mean cutting state pay to the federal minimum would be an option? Or would the fact that payroll money is set aside in the 2009-10 budget keep White v. Davis from kicking in?

I new (sic) this was coming, it's simple. The Gov. wants to be able to throw a fit and enforce layoffs and 2 day a month furloughs when he doenst (sic) get his way on the 19th. So he's stalling and so is his loser posse.

Many State Worker blog comments, e-mailers and callers have put forward this same conspiracy theory. We find it difficult to believe. The administration says it wants the deal done, and Democrats we've spoken with stop short of ascribing that level of cynicism to Schwarzenegger. Our assessment, as noted in today's State Worker column: This is business as usual for the Legislature.

April 21 CalSTRS responds to Sunday 'incentive awards' story

... Why a 2nd or 3rd string responded and not their PIO?

Sherry Reser, whose e-mail was the subject of the post, is the top media relations person for CalSTRS. She's not "2nd or 3rd string" for the fund.

April 17, 2009
Blog back: Lawsuits, lackeys and language

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

April 9 The State Worker: Furlough fight enters new phase

Remember, at best, you get what you pay for. What people have not been told is that California is 47th out of the 50 states in the number of state workers per capita. It is a fact. This is from U.S. Federal Labor Bureau statistics. So, when any state-related interaction is unsatisfactory to you, remember you are essentially paying for last-place service.

The blog user is referring to data we mentioned in this October blog post. You can click here to view comment on the data from the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

April 14 Court files: Game warden sues State Personnel Board

Please explain why this particular gem is blog worthy?

We thought highlighting the court filing might spark discussion about state employee suspensions, the role of SPB in disciplining workers and whether the punishment was too severe. Workplace discipline is a topic that interests state workers. This post was one way to approach it.

It is nonsense like this that makes all state employees look so bad to public opinion. I am embarassed.

The state can come off poorly in these sorts of legal actions, too, as was the case in this lawsuit against DPA.

April 15 Information Office establishes new tech project policies

We mentioned that the redundantly titled Office of the Chief Information Officer took acronym use to a new level in recent policy announcements. One is called California Project Management Methodology (CA-PMM). Blog users JIWTOO (Jumped In With Their Own Observations):

Well all is not lost! There ARE items in ITPL-0901 that haven't been converted to acronyms! I don't understand why they don't call CA-PMM "CAP 'EM" (which would stand for California Capital Efficiency Methodology) - Oh yeah, that wouldn't fit their model since stating California Management implies Efficiency in any manner would be a stretch ...

This heavily acronymed post added a link to AAWM (An Announcement We Missed):

Add one more ITPL adding the NASCIO methodology and adopting the FEA as the standard EA. OMG!

April 15 CASE wins SCIF furlough lawsuit

The news that CASE had prevailed in its furlough lawsuit prompted some state workers to congratulate the victors:

Congratulations CASE ... I wish I belonged to your union and department.

Others weren't so thrilled:

(M)ust be nice to be in the "ivory tower" and not get furloughed!!! What kind of cr*p is this?!?!!!!
Dummy Arnold and his DPA lackies (sic). Don't they check things out before they make knee jerk decisions? Obviously not.

The post assumes that the various branches and departments in California state government agree on furlough policy. But many state workers know that dissent often happens behind closed doors and then, once a decision is made, it's left to those who must carry it out to do so without complaint.

In what sense was this ruling unexpected? From the Bee's point of view? That's not saying much.

CASE attorney Patrick Whalen told us shortly before we posted the blog item that that he and other lawyers had expected Judge Peter Busch to hear arguments and then rule later. Instead, he ruled from the bench. We should have mentioned that in the post.

This comment lays out many of the issues that SCIF must now hammer out:

Will SCIF now reimburse each employee for the loss of pay? Will they include interest? What about the time? Will they try to force each employee to 'give back' the time by declaring used days as vacation or sick time? (I see a revolt if they even try that one). What about the SEIU employees who have been virtually forced into ratifying a contract that voluntarily takes one day furlough (assuming it passes)? Will they still take the one day? Will the SCIF / SEIU employees still be exempt? Surely they are exempt from the forced furlough, but now it's in their contract?
April 10, 2009
Blog back: Furloughs, fighting and fair terms

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

April 8 Read Schwarzenegger team's argument in CASE / SCIF lawsuit

Quit bifurcating and create one state worker union. This will put the power in the members' hands again. ... I think we are being misrepresented and treated unequally. We are all public servants and deserve a unified representation.

Many state workers see it exactly the opposite. Just ask Peace Officers of California (wants to dump CSLEA), Environmental & Transportation Professionals in California Government (wants to leave SEIU), or folks leading the Local 1000 decertification push in Bargaining Unit 21.

April 8 More from constitutional offices about furlough policy

The povernator (sic) isn't furloughing state peace officers (CHP), he's furloughing the pathetic prison guards (CCPOA) who's (sic) union has given unions a bad name by turning their bargaining strength into strong arm tactics not unlike the Mafia ...

CAHP, which represents the state's Highway Patrol Officers, has a five-year contract that doesn't expire until next year. Furloughing them would require reopening the contract. CCPOA doesn't have a contract.

April 9 From the notebook: Constitutional furlough fight edition

So what happens when the SEIU contract gets signed by the Governor? The SCO's employees haven't been taking their furloughs and will owe the State at least six days (2 in Feb., 2 in Mar., 2 in Apl) and if the Governor doesn't sign the contract until AFTER May 19th, which I suspect he won't, they will owe another 2 days. That's over a week of furlough pay that needs to be paid in order to bring them in line with the rest of SEIU members who have been furloughing since February. The SCO and other constitutionals are hurting, not helping their employees by holding out on implementing the furloughs.

We've heard that some constitutional offices are considering a plan that would extend once-a-month furloughs past the June 2010 date to satisfy the SEIU contract's call for employee pay to be reduced the equivalent of 17 days in 17 months. And the Schwarzenegger administration has said that SEIU-covered workers who haven't taken a furlough day yet could catch up by taking two per month.

... one must ask "what was SEIU thinking?" Look, the legality of the furlough is in question. You have fighting within State service about whether to implement them and YOUR UNION that YOU pay 1.5% of your salary to represent YOU makes a deal with Arnold to cut your pay! Huh?

... Why isn't SEIU fighting the furlough?

One of the ironies in this unfolding drama has been SEIU's acceptance of a contract that includes a furlough day while at the same time pressing a court case that the governor's furlough is illegal. Shortly after Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette ruled that the governor's emergency powers include furloughs, the union settled. We took those two events in tandem as a measure of the union's assessment of the likelihood of winning the furlough fight on appeal.

We'll report back on what SEIU has to say about its furlough lawsuit, now with the 3rd District Court of Appeals.

April 9 Billwatch: Read the latest analysis of the SEIU Local 1000 contract

This post elicited two distinctly different takes on state employee overtime changes:

theprovision (sic) mentioned in this article is part of a bill (SBX3 8) which states that one does count any leave in computing overtime. This is a common sense approach as it really matches federal law in regards to overtime pay. Overtime should be based on hours worked. It is not appropriate for someone to call in sick during the work week or take a vacation day then come back to work and either cover a shift or work additional hours and assume that a person will get paid overtiime because one is claiming leave credits. Getting state costs down will benefit both the employees and the tax payer in the long run.
This is not what my contract reads. There for (sic) it means nothing to me ...

I would have to say it looks like breach of an employee contract to me. All you State employee bloggers read your contract, and let me no where it says you no longer get compensated for overtime and holiday pay if you use other time. This is one of the reasons I have always been on annual leave just for this very reason.The GAS has an approval rating lower than the BUSHY it might be time for TOTAL RECALL!

For the record, President George W. Bush's approval ratings fell below 30 percent toward the end of his administration, depending on the poll. Schwarzenegger's approval rating in March was 32 percent.

April 9 The State Worker: Furlough fight enters new phase

SEIU will claim they protected you all from layoffs and THAT was why they signed a contract that casts in stone that you will be subject to furlough. Meanwhile, for 15,000 of you anyway, your employer is still fighting the furlough.

WHAT... The Union agreed to the furlough but the employer is still fighting the furlough ... Anybody else see the irony here???

People, you are all missing the fact that when a contract is expired the employees can decertify the incumbent Union!! Within days of Unit 21 filing a valid petition SEIU settled for this garbage contract by agreeing to all Arnold really wanted in the first place, a one day furlough. The 2-day demand was cooked up while at the SEIU table to it could look like SEIU saved the day by agreeing to JUST 1 DAY. What a victory!!

BTW just how many layoffs has that SEIU job prevented exactly? Haven't heard of any layoffs... BECAUSE THERE HAVEN'T BEEN ANY!!!

We'll skip commenting on the speculation that the BU 21 severance move prodded Local 1000 to accept a contract with concessions. As to layoffs, the SROA notices are still in effect and layoff plans are very much alive, the Schwarzenegger administration has told us. The process takes at least 120 days from the date the layoff warnings go out.

The administration sent out 20,000 warnings on Feb. 17. The 120th day from that date is June 17.

April 7, 2009
Blog back: Contracts, court action and conspiracy theories

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

ASSEMBLY_SEAL 1.jpgMar. 27 Read the latest CalPERS memo on furlough policy

My question is how long is it going to take to get the (SEIU Local 1000) contract signed by the legislature and Governor?

The Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security last week passed AB 964, the bill that appropriates money for the SEIU Local 1000 contract. It's now with Assembly Appropriations and has yet to be assigned a hearing date. As for when the legislation will make it to the governor's desk, it's tough to say. The Legislature's recess this week certainly doesn't speed things up.

Mar. 27 Psych techs file premium pay grievance

This post launched a discussion among blog users about the binding nature of employment contracts:

If contracts are binding for AIG bonus's then contracts are binding in labor agreements. Or is it only "certain" contracts that we abide by these days?
The time has come to dissolve all these lucrative labor contracts, and start outsourcing work to competitive bidding. The comparison below to the AIG bonus contracts works, in that these union contracts were driven by the same underlying greed, and the costs fall squarely on the back of the tax payers.
Comparing AIG (Arrogance,Incompetence,Greed) contracts to state workers contacts is not the same thing at all. AIG contacts were for bonuses for millions of dollars.How much do most of the state workers make?


CAPT is arguing that the "evergreen" language in its expired contract means the old terms governing overtime accrual remain effective until a new deal is in place. The question is whether the bill passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor that changes overtime rules trumps that evergreen language. We'll see what the Public Employment Relations Board thinks of CAPT's unfair practice charge.

On a related note, New York Times reporters Mary Williams Walsh and Jonathan Glater recently noted that, "Contracts everywhere are under assault."

The depth of the recession and the use of taxpayer dollars to bail out companies have made it politically acceptable for overseers to tinker with employment agreements.

So federal and local governments are looking for ways to pare payouts, endangering the promises made before the financial storm to people like Wall Street traders, automobile workers and garbage collectors.

"We run roughshod over some contracts and not over others," said David A. Skeel, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, about economic downturns. "Right now, employment contracts seem to be the type of contract that is viewed as eminently rewritable."

Read the rest of the Times piece by clicking here. Should state employment contracts be added to the list?

Mar. 29 Commission recommends IT consolidation; check out the report

Blog users last week criticized Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to consolidate the state's IT with the State Office of the Chief Information Officer:

Until the DGS contracting methods are revised, this won't make any difference. It will definitely add indeterminant delays to getting goods and services for various agencies. Right now it already takes 3-6 months to get a needed piece of software. After this it will probably take a year. But on the positive side, when things go wrong, there will be (fewer) suspects to point fingers at.
On the one hand, this centralization will give us fewer rocks to look under for potential IT malfeasance but on the other hand, it also gives the money-men few places to expend their cover-up dollars.

April 3 Your April furlough update

You mention additonal lawsuits. Will any of these be heard by someone other than Arnold's puppet Marionette? If not, why waste any more time with judge rubber stamp?

A lawsuit aimed at excluding State Compensation Insurance Fund employees is in San Francisco Superior Court. CCPOA has a case pending in Alameda Superior Court. And several unions have appealed Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette's January decision in favor of Schwarzenegger's emergency furlough power. The case is now with the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento.

I find it interesting that there has (sic) been no articles written in the bee (sic) on how state employees contracts have been ignored and stepped on by DPA, the Legislature and Gas, and so far there has (sic) been no repercussions to either of them.

There are legitimate questions about the terms under which state employees are now working that must be settled by the courts. We have reported those issues in the vast majority of nearly 60 State Worker blog posts touching on legal matters. We've written more than 50 stories or columns in the last year that looked at various aspects of Schwarzenegger's furloughs, layoff warnings and order to cut state worker pay to the federal minimum wage.

As to whether the administration has illegally "ignored" or "stepped on" state worker contracts, the courts haven't seen it that way so far -- and we've reported that as well.

April 4 Managers, supervisors can take furlough time by the hour

Here's a conspiracy theory that we'd not heard:

Arnie never wanted more than 1 day of furlough. The whole 2 day furlough idea was cooked up by SEIU. Notice the 2 day furlough came up while SEIU was at the table during their marathon bargaining session in which they tire their team out over a period of days with no sleep until they will agree to anything? That way SEIU can"save you" by letting you choose the lesser of two evils, now they prancing about claiming victory. VICTORY, imagine that! The biggest take-away contract in State history and SEIU is claiming victory??!!

Mark my words. As soon as this de-certification election that is being run against SEIU is over (early next month), Arnold will give everybody the 1-day furlough. Then YOU tell ME if you think SEIU is a crooked Union!

So noted.

IMAGES: Assembly seal /; PERB seal /; gavel /

March 31, 2009
Blog back: technology, a 'translation' and total compensation

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Mar. 24 EDD technology faces Senate scrutiny as unemployment rises

IT issues are a popular topic with State Worker blog users. This post by colleague Andrew McIntosh elicited some of the week's most amusing remarks:

To sum it all up, I would rather play Russian Roulette with Phil Spector than work at EDD.
Gee...we are still using IE6...only got Windows XP or Vista because it came with the computers that were bought...don't even get me started on Lotus Notes...we still have to use a dial up modem for paging...and yes still using pagers when there are vastly more efficient methods to's all about money...between contract delays..."we've always done it this way" mindset...lack of understanding of new technologies...paranoia that employees will use computers for "unofficial business"...all of which can be easily is bureaucracy at it's "finest"...

Mar. 25 Another 'water event' at BOE building = paid 'furloughs' for 250 state workers

TRANSLATION: ask DGS to work on the water pipes in your building for a possible extra week or more of paid vacation.

Mar. 25 See the SEIU Local 1000 contract vote counts

So when does the Legislator (sic) do their part?

The SEIU contract bill is scheduled for an Assembly committee hearing on Wednesday, as we noted in this blog post.

Since I have seen so many posts about missing ballots, no votes that weren't reflected in the votes, I wonder who validates the election results? I assume some objective third party validates the votes? or does this have to be requested?

Mar. 25 Assembly bill would cap state worker pay at $150,000 (but not for everyone)

The next two entries displayed invaluable user comment skills. The first, brevity and precision:


The second, the apt analogy:

(Y)et another ridiculous idea from someone who obviously cares more about posturing than actually addressing our budgetary and human capital challenges. A law saying State workers earning $150,000 or more can't get a raise is like a law saying you can't serve hamburgers in a vegetarian restaurant.

Mar. 26 Public pensions should go from 'gain sharing' to 'pain sharing'

Jon---DPA has a salary & benefits/total compensation comparison study of most common state worker classifications to their comparable other public (city, county) where State (including pension benefits) received considerably less than their local public sector counterparts (& private sector when there is a comparable private job)--thus the reductions at the local level might bring them DOWN closer to what State worker compensation is--reducing State benefits would just perpetuate and worsen the disparity. Has the Bee ever published that study?

We've referenced several DPA compensation surveys in this blog. For a sample of those entries, click here. And this Oct. 2 State Worker column referenced the 2008 survey and an accompanying Column Extra blog post linked to it.

But be careful when looking at these comparisons.

The methodology of a survey can leave the conclusions suspect. For example, this 2006 survey takes a stab at comparing compensation of state workers with those in the public and private sectors. But the footnotes on the bottom of the survey's methodology section, contain this caveat:

The survey comparisons do not reflect private employers' contributions to defined contribution retirement plans, nor public employer contributions to defined benefit retirement plans. The element that is included in the public sector comparisons is the portion of the employee's contribution that gets paid by the employer. DPA's future surveys will include the employer's retirement contribution, as it reflects an employer cost of employee compensation.

The 2008 survey focuses on government compensation comparisons, as the reader noted. Still, there's a school of public policy thinking that says comparing salaries is of limited value. State work force policy expert Jason Dickerson of the Legislative Analyst's Office expressed that point of view in the October column: "If the state can pay less than other government employers and still get enough good people to get the job done, it should. If it needs to pay more, it should pay more."

March 23, 2009
Blog back: Federal minimum wage, 'filler,' and furloughs

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Note: Bee Cap Bureau colleague Andrew McIntosh will run The State Worker blog through Wednesday while we attend training sessions to expand our Web skills.

Mar. 13 Blog back: Ratification, rationale and raises

The judges (sic) ruling doesn't make sense. If a govenor wanted to abolish an elected officials (sic) office what's to stop him from saying "all of your employees are furloughed 7 days a week"?

From Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette's tentative ruling, which is now final:

... the Governor's power to order employee furloughs is not unlimited, but rather is controlled by law, and therefore cannot be exercised in an arbitrary or capricious manner.

In other words, the governor can't do things that interfere with the constitutionals' ability to carry out the duties of their offices. In the judge's view, furloughing workers two days each month doesn't cross that line.

I'm voting NO on everything. I've had it with politicians taking from us, yet they would not cut one of their own benefits or take a 10% paycut like many others have. So it's NO, NO, NO, NO. Until they get the message!!!

Shane Goldmacher, who runs our cousin Capitol Alert blog, reported last month that Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, said she would take a self-imposed 10 percent wage cut.

It seems the need for services has more than kept up with the growth in governement (sic) ... Although I'm not a state worker, I've been a round (sic) a lot of them and for the most part they are hardworking, caring and dedicated to providing the services to the people of CA ... Like any organization, you're going to find that percentage that give an organization a bad name, but they definitly (sic) don't deserve the abuse they get on some of these boards.

According to a Bee analysis of payroll data provided by the state controller, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation grew by 1,339 full-time positions from June 2008 through January of this year, more than any other department. (Some of the growth is from hires mandated by the federal receiver.) Meanwhile, the institutionalized population -- both in-state and out-of-state -- fell slightly:

June 30, 2008 -- 170,973
Jan. 31, 2009 -- 170,281

We bring this up not to pick on Corrections, but merely to point out that government's growth isn't always linked with a corresponding demand for services.

Mar. 16 Bowen waiting for furlough answers from Schwarzenegger

Reaction to this post revealed deep divisions among state workers over the furlough pass given constitutional officer employees:

Well Ms. Bowen, it must be sooo nice that "your" employees are part of the State Worker "aristocracy" and don't have to give up 10% of their pay like the rest of us do. Who was it?? Oh,yes, I'll paraphrase Leona Helmsley, "Only the little people state workers get furloughed." Indeed!!!

Another commenter made this assessment:

In light of the widening hole in the budget the constitutional officers need to implement the furlough. What can be saved today may mitigate the looming layoff that is coming, in my opinion ...

This blog user, catscan1, thinks the matter is clear-cut:

Why does she need to know how to proceed ? Other non constitutional offices started furloughs on Feb 6th. The DPA has the plan in place following the Gov's Executive order, get on the bandwagon & pay your share with the other 215,000 state employees.

That prompted this comment from someone who, apparently, works under a constitutional officer:

hey catscan1, you jealous? we'll never be furloughed!

Mar. 16 Schwarzenegger's office: Spending growing more slowly than before

Maybe they should develop a fact sheet on the rate of un-employment, the de-value of the housing market, the number of businesses leaving CA, the number of inmates, the inability to balance or have a timely budget, the rape of public servants, the number of appointments, the cost of his security that includes chp babysitting his kids, the corruption of his appointees, the murder rate, the cost of living, the number of tax payers who have left CA and anything else he has done.

It's tempting to blame the executive, be it at the state or federal level, for all of society's woes. Governors, like presidents, often shoulder a disproportionate amount of the criticism when things go poorly. Of course, they also tend to claim a disproportionate amount of the credit when things go well.

Mar. 19 Report: California not ready for wave of state worker retirements

Many users pointed out that recent moves by the governor -- furloughs, layoff warnings, the possibility that state wages could be slashed to the federal minimum during a budget impasse -- put the state at a disadvantage when it comes to hiring or retaining employees.

... And let's not forget the $6.55 an hour that is possibly down the road when the budget does not get enacted on time. The old-timers can't wait to leave and those joining State service these days should do so with their eyes open. Of course, it's better than no job at all, but that appears to be the best thing to be said about State service right now. And it's only going to get worse...
The younger workers (20-30 years old) at my agency are using State employment as a springboard to bigger and better things ... They do not consider the State to be a long-term employer and point to the low pay and lack of respect from their ultimate boss as reasons to get out fast.
The moment the economy turns and outside opportunities reappear there will be a stampede for the door. If not before. The State is earning a reputation as a terrible employer, an employer of last resort.
At my last agency I spent a lot of time interviewing bright and talented young people and trying to convince them to come work for us right out of grad school. It was nearly impossible for two reasons: (1) we couldn't navigate the byzantine hiring process before they got offered jobs in the private sector, and (2) the pay wasn't enough. So we tried to attract the best recruits by emphasizing job security and good retirement benefits, but now those things are being taken away, too.

Mar. 19 Read the court's decision in the $6.55 per hour state worker pay case

Let's see $6.55 per hour times 176 hours per month equals $1,152.80 gross. Or unemployment at $475 per week X 4 weeks per month equals $1,900.00. Hmmm ...

For the record: The federal minimum wage goes to $7.25 effective July 24.

Mar. 19 CalPERS calls out four companies for lackluster performance

John (sic)......I'm disappointed - this is filler. At least throw in one line about how or why we care. We trust CalPERS to protect our retirement. They do a good job ...

We're pleased to have set such high expectations for this blog. However, we disagree that the post has no news value. Nor do we think it necessary to spell out for state workers why decisions by their pension fund, one of the world's largest, are important to them.

Having said that, we recognize that not everyone will find every post of personal interest. We've put up nearly 500 items since launching The State Worker in July.

Mar. 20 The State Worker: Prison officers' suit calls furloughs an illegal pay cut

It's safe to say that nothing we write about draws as many comments as CCPOA. Last Thursday's column sparked debate over public employee unions:

It is time to get the unions out of government. It is also time to rethink what we send people to prison for, and for how long. The status quo is unsustainable.
... For those who think unions don't belong in Govt. you are really fooling yourself for without those unions no one would dare expose things that only those on the inside see.
Get rid of the damned unions. These guards are very much overpaid. If they were all fired their positions could be filled for half the pay they are getting.
Let me say first that I have worked for years in various CDCR prisons - as a doctor- and have seen firsthand how the guards take advantage of the system. They used to sit around playing cards or watching TV, and refuse to get up to help me get inmates (and I was being paid a lot of money to do nothing, essentially).
Most of the bashers wouldn't last five minutes doing the CO job. Good luck on your lawsuit.
The writ is posted on the CCPOA website at It will be in an Adobe PDF format. I am surprised that the Sacramento Bee did not attach it to this article.

We posted the documents on The State Worker blog at midnight and linked to the story. The first comment was posted at 2 a.m.

March 13, 2009
Blog back: Ratification, rationale and raises

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Mar. 9 Union president urges agreement ratification

I would like to know exactly how this letter, dated February 24, was sent. If sent via e-mail or snail mail, it should have long ago reached all recipients. Has anyone actually gotten it or was it sent to the newspaper for distribution?

As the post mentions, the letter came to The State Worker from a union member. The union member received the letter in the mail with a ballot. We confirmed the letter with union officials, but SEIU Local 1000 headquarters did not send the letter to us.

Mar. 6 LAO analyzes SEIU Local 1000 deal

So someone help me out. Seems to me the governor imposed the furloughs with the "emergency" excuse with help from his favorite Judge Marlotte (sic) (hope I got the name right). So what is the justification for continuing furlough since we are no longer in a fiscal emergency? Isn't this a contradiction? Am I missing something or was this his agenda all along. How can we trust anything he says?

This argument came up in the lawsuit Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger filed against Controller John Chiang over furloughing employees who work under constitutional officers. Judge Patrick Marlette wasn't convinced. His rationale, as outlined in the tentative ruling made final on Thursday: The budget bills that lawmakers passed assume savings from furloughing state workers.

As to the governor's motivation for furloughs, his office has consistently said that just as the California families are having to tighten their belts, state government must do the same -- and furloughs are part of that cinching up process.

Mar. 10 Legislature avoided mandatory pay cuts

... I bet they give themselves a healthy raise, too, now that CA is getting so much money from the feds.

Elected officials' pay is set by the California Citizens Compensation Commission. The commission is comprised of seven gubernatorial appointees.

Mar. 9 Court filing argues constitutionals' employees subject to furlough

I have read parts of the Calif. Constitution that pertain to the elected offices. It appears the framers of the constitution were clear on these offices being separate from the Governor. If the court rules in favor of the Governor, then why would we need separate constitutional offices. Just let the Governor's office be responsible for all they do and he can appoint the necessary department heads. This would cut down on the size of the elections and their costs.

As we report today, Judge Patrick Marlette has ruled that the governor is the ultimate employer of state workers, including those of constitutional officers. The constitutionals control how there offices operate, but the governor's administration handles the terms of employment -- including layoffs, pay and, in this case, furloughs. The case will be appealed, Chiang's office told The State Worker.

The next two comments are best read back-to-back:

I work for a regular State office and am being furloughed. However, I do not agree that elected officials should have to abide by the Governor's ruling. This is the reason these are ELECTED OFFICIALS, that being, the Governor has no say. If you disagree, don't vote for the elected officials. If the Governor were to succeed in this, it takes away the power of the elected officials to make their own decisions.
As a fellow state worker who works under Insurance Commissioner Poizner, who is not furloughed yet, I completely agree with you.

We wonder how other state workers feel about this. Is this a constitutional question of such weight that it's worth some employees being furloughed and others not?

March 9, 2009
Blog back: Headlines, holdings, hours toward OT

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Mar.5 Governor's office: Tomorrow is the last 'Furlough Friday'

The story headline was misleading. There are still furloughs, but now we chose when we want to take them."
Agreed, although you gotta understand that Ortiz is seriously worried about his own job. Misleading headlines can generate more traffic for him.

We respectfully disagree on both points. The headline is accurate: Friday was in fact the last time that the government will shut down statewide -- that's the most significant news because It's the most relevant to the general public. "Governor's office: No more furloughs after Friday," would have been inaccurate and misleading.

The headline could have read, "State workers to switch to self-directed furloughs," or something to that effect, but the significance would have been lost on anyone outside of the state workforce.

As to what drives traffic to this site, we believe that if the blog is timely, fair, relevant and accurate that it will be useful. Accomplish that and we believe the rest of that stuff takes care of itself.

SMUD and PG&E are elated with this news of "self directed" (or rather, self inflicted) furlough days, as the lights will still be on in state buildings every work day. So much for a logical approach at savings by one day with the lights off. No surprise though, the governor's entire approach is illogical, apathetic and detrimental.
Ummm.... wouldn't it save the state money if they furloughed everyone out on the same day? Think of all the electricity it would save?

We asked the governor's office about the savings achieved by closing facilities, since that was one of the arguments the administration made for shutting down two days each month. Why not just close one day each month and then let workers and management pick the second day? Here's what the governor's spokesman, Aaron McLear, said in an e-mail to The State Worker:

Uniform furlough days have the added benefit of saving the state on energy costs by closing down state facilities. But we are also trying to minimize the impact to our customers and trying to minimize the economic impact on local business dependent on providing services and products to government.
Jon--given that oversight of pharmaceuticals seems central to this article, did anyone check to see whether or not the Governor's investment portfolio included pharmaceuticals?

The governor's holdings, and those of other elected state workers, are listed on his Form 700 report to the Fair Political Practices Commission. The Bee will soon post his new filing on its Financial Disclosure Reports page.

We've seen the Mar. 2 report covering Schwarzenegger's 2008 holdings, and it doesn't appear that the governor has investments in pharmaceuticals. But even if he did, we're not sure what link one could draw between that and Marin taking speaking fees from drug companies.

Mar. 6 The State Worker: To furlough or not, still the question

Nice article, I bet Stacy Garrett never gets a "step increase" or promotion ever again. When you speak your mind, you get penalized. Just look what happened at John Garamendi's office. I hear he runs his office by himself from an old card table & a payphone on the wall.

We're grateful to Stacy for her candor because we know she spoke for many state workers. It's one thing for a Bee blogger/columnist/reporter to opine about what's it's like to work for the government -- or for critics to anonymously lob grenades via online comments -- and another for a state worker who does it every day to lend a pithy on-the-record quote. The latter usually is much more informed and interesting.

And if you think Garrett's quote in our Thursday column was something, check out her op-ed piece in last Sunday's Bee.

Amusing take about what Schwarzenegger's 2009-10 budget cuts will do to the Lt. Governor's office, by the way.

Mar. 6 LAO analyzes SEIU Local 1000 deal

Hey Jon, since it appears that you are now the Personnel Officer for the State; can you instruct the peons as to who is correct on the interpretation of the leave counting as hours worked for purposes of overtime? The union claims that only sick leave is excluded for purposes of counting hours worked for overtime; the SBX 3 8 say all leave. So which one is it?

We majored in journalism and political science in college, not contract law, so our opinion on this doesn't matter much. Here's what the LAO's Local 1000 tentative contract analysis says on PDF page 10:

Provisions to Reduce Use of Overtime Hours. Previously, various types of employee leave have been counted by departments as an hour worked for purposes of computing overtime, and this has increased state overtime costs. A trailer bill enacted as part of the recent budget package contains new requirements that no type of state employee leave or holiday shall be "considered as time worked by the employee for the purpose of computing cash compensation for overtime or compensating time off for overtime." These provisions were intended to reduce state costs for employee overtime. The Local 1000 MOUs contain various provisions on overtime, but allow enacted legislation to supersede "any and all MOU sections or past practices" that conflict with these enacted laws. Accordingly, the trailer bill provisions to reduce the state's use of overtime hours would remain in effect under the Local 1000 MOUs.

March 5, 2009
Blog back: Migration, money math and making sure

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Feb. 27 Furloughs creating HR headaches at CalPERS

It's State Worker vs. The State these days. Arnold can be blamed for inciting such disrespect and hatred for State Workers. I work for one of those Evil constitutional offices. We are not furloughed, but man is the phone ringing off the hook with people trying to see if they can transfer here. We plan on taking the best of the best that want to come over to the dark side from other agencies if we can get away with it. We Win on 2 levels, the ones that get laid off are going to be the younger, brighter, more ambitious workers from the bottom 20%. We will scoop them up if we can.

Sounds like the Legislative Analyst's Office was right. This Jan. 30 report predicted that an uneven application of furloughs would create employee migration. Check out PDF page 7 of the analysis, "Cuts of a Similar Magnitude in Special Funds Personnel Costs."

Feb. 27 Furlough paychecks hit employees today

While my family is suffering from this big pay cut, governor appointed his friend with 6 figure salary. This is sixth one. where is justice! Where are so union leaders? We should all take sick day and go to Sacramento!

There is an undeniable irony to former Assemblywoman Sharon Runner's gubernatorial appointment to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. The Lancaster Republican will make $128,109 per year as a board member, according to this report by our Capitol Bureau colleague Shane Goldmacher.

Jon-do a running total of the wasteful/questionable travel you & other press discover(in violation of a Governor Executive Order) & personal service contracts (like the DPA contract for the Governor's $450 per hr. lawyers)after the date prohibiting any new ones in the Executive Order...the math probably will exceed the projection for furlough savings....

An interesting idea. We'll see if we can make it happen.

Moving on ... The question of the percentage impact of two-day-per-month furloughs to a household where both wage earners work for the state has vexed blog users ever since Schwarzenegger ordered the unpaid days off in December. Here's one user's stab at explaining it:

Let's settle this whole math question once and for all!

If only one adult in a two-income household works for the state, (assuming they earn the same) the *household* would suffer a 5% loss in of income.

If both adults in that household work for the state, the *household* would get a "double hit" and would suffer a 10% total loss. Similarly, as in my case, if there is only one income for the household and he/she works for the state, that household, too, gets a 10% hit.

The most common mistake we've seen is thinking that if two state workers in a home lose 10 percent each that the total hit is 20 percent. This user makes a similar error by doubling the lost income but failing to double the remaining take home pay.

For the purpose of easy numbers, let's say that a state worker makes $1,000 per month and then loses 10 percent of his wages to furloughs. His pay reduced pay would be $900 (which is 90 percent of $1,000.) If his wife, say, also made $1,000 and lost 10 percent, she would would also be down $100, and also take home $900.

The "double hit" equals $200, but the percentage of income lost to the household is still 10 percent of the combined $2,000 earned before furlough.

Mar. 2 More details about furlough makeup days for SEIU Local 1000 workers
Mar. 3 Changes (again) to March furlough schedule

Today's State Worker Column on how the state has handled furlough policy sprang from your calls, e-mails and comment on these two posts. One sharp-eyed user alerted us to subtle but significant changes to the DPA Web site that were a key point in the piece. Thanks to everyone who helped out.

No one knows for sure right now what is happening with the furloughs. Don't believe what you hear from the union, DPA or the Gov's office. It changes from day to day. Sure makes the people running CA look incompetent. What am I saying? They are.
Somebody clarify for me--I THINK it's June 2012 by which time you have to use your banked furlough hours. It's June 2010 when the proposed new contract would expire.

That's right.

Once again, our bumbling governor has created a mess. A nightmare for state agencies trying to accomplish their mandates as decreed by state statutes. This is what comes of turning state employees into scapegoats instead of those elected to do a job taking responsibility. Dysfunction piled upon dysfunction, powered by Bully Arnold. What's next? With current logic, state employees will now be blamed for the drought. It just gets more insane.
Where is the Bee getting this information? Unless you got it from DPA, then you shouldn't be reporting it. I was just told by one of our managers that the furlough days are the 6th and the 20th per DPA. Stop putting this incorrect information out. It's bad enough that we're getting conflicting information from SEIU.

As noted in today's column, the furlough messages from DPA have shifted in the last week. It's quite possible that managers received a policy decision that had yet to be publicly announced.

And, yes, before we report on these matters, we check with multiple sources, including DPA.

Jon, could you tell us how SEIU's TA will affect planned layoffs at EDD? EDD's on DPA's list of agencies handing out layoff notices, but their employees are represented by SEIU. I'm assuming that notices issued to those employees will be rescinded once the TA is ratified?

Employees represented by Local 1000 can still be laid off under terms of the TA if their department, facility or entire office is shut down. But if only their position is eliminated, they can take a job within 10 percent of their current pay and within 50 miles of where they live.

But don't take our word for it. Click here for links of to the contract by bargaining unit and a DPA summary of the terms. The union's Web site has dedicated a page to the Master Contract articles and another page to contract terms specfic to each BU.

March 2, 2009
Blog back: Legalities, legislation and labor representation

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Feb. 23 Date set for constitutional furlough lawsuit

Thumbnail image for Garamendi.jpg

Clarifying the constitutional and legal constraints and responsibilities of our elected officials is hardly a "moot point". If left unchallenged, future governors would assume far more power than they are rightfully due.

We certainly didn't mean to downplay the constitutional issue raised by the furlough order. We agree that the larger question is significant. That's why we qualified our comment: "In some ways, the lawsuit is a moot exercise, since Schwarzenegger reduced the constitutionals' personal services budgets by up to 10 percent."

We can't ignore the fact that even if the court rules against the governor, his line item budget reductions were a de facto furlough order -- or a virtual layoff mandate in the case of Lt. Governor John Garamendi's 21-person office.

Did DPA employees get furlough notices?

DPA observed the two "Furlough Fridays" last month. It also is on the list of departments with employees who have been designated "surplus."

Feb. 23 Republican gubernatorial candidates: Shrink state work force

Several blog users criticized former eBay CEO and gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman for her recent comments about trimming "headcount" in the state bureaucracy and that reducing the state workforce by 10 percent could be done without impact to services.

"Headcount", love that term, sounds like they have already chopped the heads off and now are counting what's laying arund (sic).
... Headcount? Nice way to dehumanize working families ...
So does a reporter ever question these statements? If she made this claim at a press conference did anyone challenge her to back it up? Don't you ask questions at a press conference?

We recounted Whitman's remarks from a Feb. 21 press conference taped by The Bee. After she said the state workforce could cut by 10 percent with no loss of service, Bee columnist and Capitol Bureau colleague Dan Walters asked her to expand on her budget cutting plans in greater detail. Whitman ignored the follow-up question.

The first thing people do when they become billionaires is forget what it's like to not be a billionaire. The second thing they do is run for Governor of California.

Feb. 24 Billwatch: Legislation seeks more spending accountability

This post drew out plenty of analysis of AB 400 , which would require departments each year to post on their Web sites how they've spent their money.

This is great and I think it can be done, but does not go far enough. Far too much can be lumped into "administration". It would be nice if there are more detailed categories included in the bill language such as executive staff compensation/benefits (salary, personal use of a state vehicle, free parking, etc.), contracting costs (number of people, pay, etc.) ...
This bill will only add more paperwork to the already failed system ...
... This seems like a project that will drain funding from services to facilitate a feel good program, and possibly something that was proposed to allow its author to claim he is a reformer and for gov't transparency ... I think all of this information already exists with the Dept. of Finance. It is called the State Budget.
And, as a state worker, I am all for it in principle as are, I'd imagine, most of the rank and file ... We'd love to see some accountability for the management decisions. Ah, but there's the rub. For the same ones who make the wasteful decisions are the ones who define the expenses, often in rather creative ways.

Our take: We love the concept, but the numbers would need to be understandable, searchable and easily analyzed by things such as vendor, good or service. The information also would need to sync with budget projections so that users can compare estimated expenses to monies actually spent. And the Web sites would have to dump the bureaucratic jargon to make the information comprehensible to the general public.

Feb. 25 Union request to stop Arizona layoffs denied; public workers vs. 'Joe and Sally Taxpayer'

So who exactly does Susan Mangiero consult for? You don't say. I don't live or work in Sacramento so her name is not familiar to me. This is important because her political and/or business biases do matter in what she writes about public pensions.

You can read about Mangiero's Connecticut-based company, Pension Governance Inc., by clicking here. Access her online bio here.

Feb. 25 Unions good for economy

This post spurred vigorous debate. Four small snippets of the back-and-forth:

Unions were a very important part of labor negotiations years ago. Now they hardly represent the will of their members. This contract they negotiated late is nonsense. Our current unions need to be fired and replaced ...
Some folks seem to think that unions WERE once a good idea and garnered some protections for workers but are now somehow obsolete. To them, I ask: just because the police have secured your neighborhood so there's been no crime for a year, do you think you don't need them anymore?
I'm a state attorney and member of the attorney's union. My union has done nothing for me ... Too often I have seen my union come to the aid of insubordinate and unproductive workers when management has the temerity to ask them to take on the same workload as everyone else.
By the time the state work force became unionized, I was in the management/supervisory rank ... I generally found that unions represented their members in a fair and impartial manner. I always found that I was able to take necessary disciplinary action against employees by diligently documenting performance or lack thereof ... Generally, the inability to address problem employees came about when supervisors and managers failed to do their job and instead acted in an arbitrary and subjective manner. Unions should not be blamed when this happens.
February 20, 2009
Blog back: Power, political endorsements and props to the governor

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Feb. 12 The State Worker: Furloughs boost governor's muscle at bargaining table

It's a power grab...The Governor loves power...although late in his is something he will take credit for and relish in (sic) unless he is soundly knocked on his backside...

We suspect that all elected officials by their nature tend to "love power." A willingness to wield power is a prerequisite for seeking high office. Using power once in office is part of governing.

Whether an official's actions effectively use power or abuse it is generally where disagreements arise.

Moving on ... This blog user quotes from our column and then draws a conclusion from it:

"It's a fight worth having. Someone needs to decide if a governor can run California like a CEO heading a high- tech firm in the dot-com bust."

Uhm, no kidding Ortiz again... I guess Wilson giving endorsement to Whittman (sic) was purely coincidental, or are you too afraid or uncertain to spell it out? Whittman (sic) is Ahnold all over again..


The commentator is seeing shadows where none exist. We have no opinion on the Meg Whitman candidacy.

Having said that, we're not convinced that a successful business career sharpens the skills a person needs to lead in a democracy, since government operates differently than a private sector company.

No one man should have this much power in a democracy.

We'll see if the courts agree, assuming that challenges to Schwarzenegger's furlough order continue.

The Bee and apparently "The State Worker" aren't aware that the State usually furloughs many of its employees from around June to February 16, in the last few years, in order to make money come out of the air ...

You're correct. We didn't know this, So please, educate us. How many workers are we talking about? A few hundred? A few thousand? Several departments or one? How much money "comes out of the air" from this policy? Specifics, please.

Feb. 13 Layoff warnings averted -- for now

Here's a rare kind word for the governor from a self-identified public employee ...

Whereas Gray Davis would've been paralyzed due to his generosity to certain unions and inability to absorb negative fallback from any cuts he would've had to make, our current governor is taking definite action. One may not agree with them but he is taking the necessary steps to force the Legislature to come up with solutions. As far as the lack of communication, it is unfortunate. However, public sector employees (such as myself) will find that private sector employees are also in the same boat when it comes to "business communications."

This disgruntled blog user opines about the state's communication problems:

... I am tired to reading what is happening with my employment in the newspaper before I hear about it from my employer. There seems to be a standard disregard for employees from the Governor and the legislature. Since I can not be sure that any of them read e-mails, evidenced by lack of response, I'd like to address them all here. After all, since all communication comes through the Sac Bee from them to us, maybe they will see it here ...

The user then expresses his disgust.

We occasionally hear stories from state workers who say using this blog gives them more information about what's going on with their jobs than what they get from their superiors.

We have it on good report that several weeks ago employees in one state unit found their access to The State Worker was blocked. Several attributed the cutoff to an administrator who became upset in a meeting when subordinates shared furlough policy information they'd read on this blog -- information that the administrator didn't know.

Some state workers figured out how to get around the block. Others protested the policy. After a few days, the filter blocking the access was removed.

Feb. 14 SEIU and administration reach tentative labor deal

The State Worker community was divided on whether the SEIU tentative agreement is a good deal:

Well done. This is an acceptable compromise. Lets's close this terrible chapter of our lives.
I read this and quite frankly laughed out loud. This is like negotiating and giving the other side the preferred method to do you in. SEIU members should feel robbed that they pay dues to this clueless organization.

Feb. 16 Layoff warning notices to go out Tuesday morning

Schwarzenegger's furlough / layoff orders have created a dilemma for state workers: Am I willing to give up some of my pay to save colleagues' jobs? Blog users weighed in:.

I'm sorry I just can't hide what I am thinking. Layoofs (sic) suck and I am sorry for those who may get laid off. (Which I doubt will happen) But I will say this. BETTER THEM THEN ME.
I for one would gladly take a one day furlough rather than get laid off. Those of you who are willing to let your co-workers get laid off so you can keep a lousy 5% should be ashamed.
I am not ashamed, I have worked for the state 33 years and in the past two years have seen everthing (sic) that I worked hard for go away with this gov. and this so called union. This happens in the private sector, it's bad that the younger workers with get laid off, but that is life.

Feb. 17 Furlough Friday rules clarified for this week

If this contract does get ratified, and therefore we will be owed one day of pay from February since the instructions are not to work, how will all this pan out? I don't believe they ultimately will say "here's your money back for that extra furlough day we made you take in February."

The SEIU tentative agreement calls for 17 furlough days in 17 months from February through June 2010. Employees covered by that deal, assuming it's ratified, will get credit for the extra "Furlough Friday" they took this month by skipping a furlough day later on.

February 13, 2009
Blog back: Furloughs, fire chief and frustration

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Feb. 9 Psychiatric technicians union agrees to furlough specifics

ProudCalifornian, there have been no details released. Questions to DPA, SCO, and the union remain unanswered. For answers, my agency has been referred to DPA's PML 2009-007 ( which "clearly" states:

"The Furlough Program begins with the February 2009 pay period and goes through the June 2010 pay period. During that time, all State employees will have two unpaid days off each month. This program is subject to change through court or legislative action and through bargaining."

To me it is as clear as mud.

Comments that include informative links to legitimate sources always add value to the blog. Thanks.

Feb. 10 Nagging questions about the furlough

How will the State recruit professionals? I once sat in at the very top level of a management meeting at one taxing agency about ten years ago and they were sadly joking that the only thing they had as a lure for IT folks was free parking. They were serious and it was part of the recruitment brochures. I doubt things have improved, expecially with ongoing furloughs and layoffs.
I believe that the Governor has just given the "on the fence" state workers his version of a golden handshake. Retire and you will not have to go through this pay reduction ... It's time to wake up! The power is on the Govenor's side and will remain there for at least 2 more years.

Events in recent weeks have certainly hurt the state's image as an employer. Not that it was all that great before. Watch the terms of the next budget / contract. Concessions could push some state workers out the retirement door who would have stayed a few more years in better times.

If the furlough is allowed by the courts as an allowable excercise of executive power, what element of a contract can the Governor NOT change by decree? How about furlough 5 days a month? Ten days? Can he cut off health benefits? Vacation or sick time?

Great questions that inspired our last State Worker column.

Feb. 10 Layoff letters to go out: What are people saying where you work?

This post quickly became a forum to debate who is the biggest sinner in the state's financial fiasco:

Arnold is the problem ... California and the entire country is facing the worst economic crisis since the great depression. Rather than flex muscle, sue, fire, threaten and throw temper tantums, we need a real LEADER. Dire times have always brought forth our greatest LEADERS. Leader face problems with real solutions. Cowards point the finger and blame others. Arnold is no leader.
Paranoid fantasy scenarios aside, it's just not Arnold's fault. His best efforts to lead have been methodically and systematically thwarted by an intractable, obstructionist legislature too wrapped up in its own self-importance to notice that they have not been doing their job for the last three years. That swamp downtown is in dire need of a good draining..

Many blog users expressed anger and frustration:

Johnny Paycheck had it right.

A reference, of course, to the classic workers' anthem, "Take This Job and Shove It."

So morale continues to plummet, and its fair to say that we all feel like fish swimming in a tank, hoping to avoid being served up with a side of chips.

We always appreciate users who can find new ways to explain old things.

Feb. 11 Furlough Friday protester for Governor?

Comments to Rod Brietmaier's furlough protest were mixed. Some hailed him:

I won't be joining the "no spending on furlough-Fridays" movement... In fact, I'll be using my furlough days going to Reno and spending my California money helping the Nevada economy.
I'll be joining the "no spending on furlough-Fridays" movement.
I agree with this. I hope this hurts the small business, who turn around and complain to the gov. Kind of like a fly wheel...eventually so many people will be up in arms the furloughs will be eliminated.

One commenter criticized Brietmaier:

Nice picture. What better way to perpetuate the idea that state workers are lazy than by having a photo of a guy sitting on a couch and playing video games. I realize that he has been furloughed and has a right to spend his forced free time as he likes, but what I am talking about here is perception. The only people who are going to sympathize with furloughed state workers are other state workers ...

Feb. 11 Budget includes furloughs, holiday reductions, OT changes

Jon--note all the confusion since the Governor chose to ignore all usual ways of doing State business (like the confusion implementing furloughs)--he doesn't deal in the details required to implement anything--and he chose a slew of methods at odds with laws and contracts--------many federal. Budgets require real numbers for real dollars to be available and spendable (so the Controller can issue warrants).....I can hear his voice, should anyone dare to point this out to him, "Let them eat cake!" and "Long live my Bastille!"

We continue to be amazed at calls and e-mails asking about who is exempt, how furloughs work for employees at 24/7 facilities and the like. Clearly, there's a communication problem somewhere in California's vast, bureaucratic labyrinth.

Let me get this straight, state workers were furloughed because the gubernator declared a state of emergency. When a budget is signed (hopefully tomorrow), we will no longer be in a state of emergency. Doesn't that mean our furloughs are cancelled?

Feb. 12 Governor could move layoff warning deadline

... And Arnold is still going to layoff over 10 thousand of us anyway.

That layoff number seems virtually unattainable, according to LAO analyst Jason Dickerson. He explains why in this post by San Diego Union-Tribune blogger Chris Reed.

Feb. 12 Farewell to the chief

Why is this on the State Worker site? Look, not to knock the guy but as a State Worker, I could care less about someone retiring. I have to deal with State Government for a while longer and I would much rather be reading news on this site pertaining to What is going on with State Workers!! Leave the warm and fuzzy crap to State News or something.

Obviously, this blog user doesn't work for CAL FIRE. Beyond that, high-level departures from state service have news value, particularly when the state is facing so many personnel stresses. It's a difficult time to lead.

February 10, 2009
Blog back: More furlough fallout

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Note: we usually reserve blog backs for Fridays, but the volume of comments to our last State Worker column and recent blog posts has prompted us to post a rare mid-week BB to keep up. In the interest of space and brevity, we're exercising editorial license to excerpt comments.

Feb. 5 Should constitutional officers' employees be exempt from furlough?

Hey Ortiz - You are asking the wrong question. Why should state workers be the only group to take a 10% pay cut (tax)?? ...

Our question was rooted in the developing news of the day. The question of furlough fairness has been thoroughly discussed by this blog's users. And as regular visitors of this blog know well, private sector workers are quick to point out that many folks outside of state government have taken a 100 percent pay cut through layoffs.

We saw no reason to raise again what has become a well-worn debate.

Meanwhile, users were split over whether which is more important, spreading the furlough pain to everyone or maintaining the independence of statewide officers:

The principle of constitutional officer independence, as a part of the California Constitution, is as important as the Constitution itself. I personally think that the furlough is a poor decision altogether. The Governor, a constitutional officer, ordering another constitutional officer to furlough their employees is equivalent to one manager telling another manager how to manage their staff -- inappropriate.
I work for a special fund agency and we are furloughed ... I don't think this is appropriate. These constitutional officers lack the nuts to tell their staff to stay home. Its about sharing the pain. Its about showing the public we, state employees, don't always have our hands out looking for more ... If independence brings the ability for these clowns to spend money the State doesn't have, they need to be appointed ...
The autonomy of the Constitutional Officers is paramount...otherwise they are nothing more than appointees in function...there is a reason they are individually elected...this is nothing more than a POWER PLAY by the Governor to try and submit the State, citizens, employees and constitutionally elected officials to his will...he will most likely lose in the end...after more taxpayer dollars are wasted on his high cost contract attorneys and the courts...
Have those independently elected constitutional officers affirmatively directed their employees to show up tomorrow and promised them they will get paid for that day's work? ... I can't find any indication of that in any of the Bee's coverage.

We were working on that angle when we posted the Feb. 5 blog question and evolving online story. In case you missed the full story published the following day, here's the link.

... I suspect the State may ultimately face some tough lawsuits when, for instance, a secretary at a non-constitutional agency takes a mandatory 10% pay cut, while a secretary with an identical spb job description at a constitutional agency does not, since there are all kinds of laws and regulations about equal pay for equal work in the state civil service system.

Thoughtful remarks that look ahead and take a wider view of the issue than the user's personal experience. Good post.

Feb. 6 The State Worker: Furloughs' unseen cost -- in morale

Does Jon Ortiz realize that many state workers are not paid out of the general fund. Our not being paid will not save the state a nickle (sic), and in many cases will cost the state revenue. My guess is he is like arnold (sic), and his only concern is to kick sand in our faces ...

We realize that state employees are paid from various pots of money, and we've questioned the administration about why those workers are subject to furlough. The answer, according to DPA officials is that money paying for agencies and departments outside the General Fund is available for borrowing and therefore those arms of the government should be cutting costs as well, including by furlough.

The charge that our "only concern is to kick sand" in state workers' faces implies that we find pleasure in the misery of others. We don't.

Feb. 6 Governor's office: 'What Californians are saying about furloughs'

WOW Sacramento Bee.... You might as well just come out and say it... you're bending right over for the Governor. This is terrible! No wonder I don't order the Bee. What a sorry excuse for a news source!

As we often point out, our blog posts of e-mail, press releases, editorials, news stories and the like should not be interpreted as supporting the views expressed in them.

Nice cherry picking of comments. I have this yellow snow that is actually dissolved gold to sell if you are interested ...

Feb. 5 Furlough Roundup

So Jon,hold Lockyer's spokesman's feet to the fire. "We saved money"?!? Where are the specifics?

We've asked Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar for specifics. He told us that the data is available but needs to be organized to make it understandable to a general readership. When we receive it, we'll post it. We're also asking the other constitutional officers for their savings information.

Feb. 6 Judge denies CDF Firefighters' request to stop furloughs

Aren't they CalFIRE now???

"CDF Firefighters" is named in the court filing.

Feb. 6 The State Worker: Furloughs' unseen cost -- in morale

In retrospect, the furloughs might be the tipping point for state government. Productivity is tanking because of plummeting morale. Decisions are not made because managers are in crisis mode, trying to save positions. Meanwhile, the elected and appointed political overclass keeps mandating new workload. Under the furloughs, every dollar saved will translate into many, many more dollars lost.

We think that the furloughs represent a huge shift in power that will change the state workplace, possibly forever. We'll discuss this in greater detail in our Thursday State Worker column.

February 6, 2009
Blog back: IT, offensive comments and, of course, furloughs

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Jan. 28 Taxpayers deserve streamlined IT

And, just when did the governor intend to pay serious attention to the recommendations of his own CPR (California Performance Review), almost completely ignored by him to-date? Did I last read it would save 'only' $16 billion?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2009-10 budget proposal reaches back to the CPR to suggest more than two dozen state boards, agencies, bureaus and commissions the administration wants to streamline, combine or eliminate.

Integrating and collapsing the State's IT organization is a monumental undertaking and it's a path where many have tread and few (none?) have succeeded. The State Controller boldly revealed the ineptitude of this IT organization when he admitted a mass-change of the State's workers salaries was nigh impossible with its archaic, proprietary mainframe-based payroll system. Talk about job security. Be it Quickbooks or a huge ERP solution, the notion of an unchangeable payroll system is utterly comical. Surely this is but one of numerous inefficiencies in this vast, splintered organization with dozens of IT directors and independent silos. In State government time, it will likely take a really driven CIO 10 years to truly consolidate the IT org.

A well-written analysis. For an example of the state's struggle to upgrade IT, check out Cap Bureau colleague Andrew McIntosh's recent story about unfinished projects at EDD.

Feb. 4 Governor's lawyer responds to Chiang's request for furlough clarification

The Bee really needs to review posts and new accounts before just granting access. This statement below only points to the absolute stupidity of the racist poster and how did the Bee let that screen name get past?! Wake up Bee!

The Bee, like many heavily-visited Web sites that allow comments, relies on users to flag offensive, inappropriate and off-topic posts. If you see an offensive comment or user name, use the "Report abuse" link found at the bottom right of the offending comment. Bee online staff will then review it.

Feb. 5 The State Worker: Furlough's unseen cost -- in morale

Furloughs are NOT about saving the state money. Furloughs are about "streamlining" I will repeat this again, once the state goes to a four day workweek, as many other states have, the state WILL operate on a four day workweek. I see this as a PERMANANT (sic) move.

It's clear that the governor is looking for some permanent cost savings to what the state spends on employees. That's the big reason that the administration has proposed changing how health benefit packages are negotiated. His call for erasing two paid holidays from the state calendar is another such move.

When it comes to furloughs, think through this scenario and see what you conclude: Say it's early May 2010. Furloughs are supposed to end in June. But the economy is even worse off than it was in 2009 when furloughs went into effect. State government remains strapped for cash. What will the governor say about restoring regular hours and pay to state workers?

I was in the "OK with it" group until I arrived at work today to find that my alternate work week schedule ('9/8/80' or every other Friday off) may be abandoned, so I will still work nine days (8 hours each)every fortnight and get paid less. I wouldn't feel right slowing my work pace, but I am feeling a bit sick right now.

Furloughs can have a progressively degrading impact on morale and productivity unless the furloughed workers believe that they have had some input and that the sacrifice is for a greater good. From what we can tell, neither mitigating circumstance exists here.

Here's how my not being in the office will have an impact. I work with consultants to assist with Caltrans proejcts. They requested a meeting for this Friday to clarify some issues. Meeting had to be rescheduled to next Tuesday. Not a big deal it seems but this 4 day delay will likely delay other decisions and actions, which will have a cumulative impact on the timing of the project down the road. Now consider all the other cumulative impacts throughout the state with other delays since employees won't be around and you can see how these small impacts will effect the State as a whole.
February 2, 2009
Blog back special edition: Furloughs

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

As the furlough drama unfolded last week, we noticed that more self-identified state workers comments indicated a reluctant acceptance that a furlough looks likely. While many users are still fighting mad, the rise in the number of moderate comments is a striking change from the "no surrender" tone of many posts on this blog which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger first proposed a monthly one-day furlough in November.

Jan. 29 PECG: We'll appeal the furlough ruling

I would prefer the unions stop filing suits, they are only doing so to prove to their members that they are trying to do something to support them. This will only result in higher unions or "fair share" dues in the very near future, so please don't egg them on. As for me, I am feeling incredibly fortunate that I still have a job and I will find a way to make due with less income as everyone else in the nation who is suffering from furloughs or layoffs or foreclosures, etc.
Hey PECG, brilliant (and SEIU isn't too far behind). Get the furloughs overturned and let the layoffs begin. Don't come crying to the State Worker blog when Arnold welds his meat cleaver after the furloughs are overturned. Someone somewhere once said 91% of something is better than 100% of nothing. BTW, since the unions are doing such an outstanding job of negotiating job security, will I get a 9% reduction in my dues/fair-share payment?
The moral (sic) is so bad already in my office that people are looking forward to the furlough.

This insightful state worker's comment took a wider view of the impact of furloughs:

I assume the deadlines on all state designed projects will now be extended by 10%. The delay will be used as an excuse to spend more money to contract out the work that the state engineers who are not at work can't do.

Other state workers appear to be plotting their next move:

Jan. 29 The State Worker: Today's furlough hearing won't ease uncertainty

What SCIF form is used for stress?
nanosecond wrote "What SCIF form is used for stress?" You can find it here: Share it with your friends and don't forget to call the 800 number for EAP for a crisis counseling session. If you do go, be sure to get a DOWO. You don't need your boss on your back for taking time off.

That prompted this appeal:

To those of you thinking about playing the "stress card" please don't. Don't contribute to the public opinion that state workers are lazy and always looking for ways to go out on a bogus claim at tax payer's expense. Let's keep our integrity and show the private sector that we aren't quitters, but workers of strong character. The whole state is hurting. Much as I hate the furloughs, and the consequences for many, we must fight these politicians not resort to tacky, false claims that only sully our worker reputations. Write your legislator, be active, write letters to newspapers, talk to your friends, but please, show we are honest workers of good character.

Jan. 30 Judge approves Schwarzenegger's furlough plan

Listen, and understand. That Terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

Amusing post that gives new meaning to actor Michael Biehn's line in "The Terminator." Well done!

Jan. 30 Furlough details released

The Governor won the court room battle based on his "state of fiscal emergency." Was it ever brought up or discussed as to why he waited so long to declare an "emergency". Could it have been an intentional act to delay union talks so he could act without meet and confer. Pete Wilson was no friend to public employees, especially state ones. Only two general salary raises in eight years. Yet he meet with and negotiated a one day furlough a month for all state employees, even those working for constitutional officers.

Court documents submitted by the governor's attorneys included papers that showed some labor negotiation details and that noted the special legislative sessions called to address the budget mess. Those failed efforts, in combination with the unforeseen market meltdown, appear to have convinced the judge that the situation is an "emergency."

One question before I leave these silly boards for good: How will the general fund absorb the automatic 10% restoration of pay when the furloughs expire? Where will that money come from? Arnold's successor will be faced with a very serious labor crisis not of his/her own making.

Good questions for which we have no firm answers. You can reasonably speculate that if the economy hasn't recovered this year -- some economists are now predicting it won't -- that the state's finances will remain strained when the furloughs expire next year. Much will depend on the language in the next labor pacts. Will they include iron-clad terms that restore furloughed hours and pay? We'll see.

By the way, sorry to see you go. We hope you'll reconsider.

January 30, 2009
Blog back: Public vs. private, Nazi propaganda vs. our blog, Obama vs. Dahmer

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

It was comparison week on The State Worker:

Jan. 22 The State Worker: Furlough order's uncertainties cause anxiety

Ok, Someone help me out here, I just don't get this logic. Everyone is taking aim at state workers and trying to blow their heads off because of the jobs they have. So, why aren't you shooting at Intel employees? They have a great stock option plan, excellent insurance and retirement. Or why not any of the other large corporations, say, the Big 4 in Detroit, their union gets outrageous wages for it's members.

There are plenty of differences between Intel and state government. Private enterprises must gauge customer needs, change with ever-shifting trends and, in most cases, deal with stiff competition. Publicly owned companies must satisfy their investors. If they fail to do any of those things, they risk failure and dissolution. Intel can disappear if it is mismanaged.

Not so with government, as recent events underscore.

Our culture tends to value risk takers and devalue those perceived as avoiding risk. This is, we believe, the essence of the hard feelings so many have toward state workers, particularly in tough economic times like these when the riskiness of private enterprise is laid bare.

Jan. 23 CHP swears in 178 new officers

Funny how you forgot to include the numbers of incidents or calls they have to respond to. Are there enough officers to handle those calls? This group may have been hired to cover shortages throughout the state. But we'll never know, because you only wanted to stir up the hate about new hires at the state.

Stirring up "hate" for state workers is not the agenda for this blog or its companion column. We aim to dispense useful and timely information, provide fair analysis, stimulate rigorous, thoughtful debate and build a social network among State Worker blog users.

One way to accomplish that last goal is to recognize significant accomplishments by state employees. We think that successfully completing the CHP Academy falls into that category.

Jan. 23 Pension reform crusader e-mails The State Worker

Sacramento Bee: Do you know what you are doing with this crusade of yours? You are de-humanizing State Employees. Seems to me that the Bee's actions are very similar to a German leader's actions about 80 years ago. Just change "State Employees" to "Jews"...

Comparing Nazi propaganda intended to foment ethnic hatred to a blog post highlighting public sentiment about state public employee pensions is extreme, to say the least. Our publication of the McCauley e-mail, or any e-mail or letter, should not be construed as supporting the author's position.

And speaking of over-the-top comparisons ...

Jan. 26 Has Obama taught public pension reformers how they can win too?

Comparing Keith Rich Man with President Obama is like comparing Jeffrey Dahmer with Mother Teresa. Other than sharing some DNA they don't have much in common. The internet worked for Obama because he had a positive message of moving towards a win win society. The median intelligence of internet users is above that of society as a whole. This worked in Obama's favor.

Richman and his negative message of doom is DOA with any intelligent group. CalPERS needs to be improved. I would certainly support an alternate 401k for those of us who don't benefit from CalPERS--average state workers who don't retire at age 55. Keith doesn't want any logical approach like that. He's the nasty kid in fourth grade who takes the lunch money and beats the victim up anyway.

We would appreciate exposure to any studies that indicate, "The median intelligence of internet users is above that of society as a whole."

Jan. 28 Union membership grew in 2008

Bee, if I understand what you are reporting correctly, CA's percentage of Unionized workers is up compared to last year, and is well above the national average. I think you missed the mark in the lead for the story. I would like to see how CA is ranked with other States, surely you can run/repeat some numbers for us from the BLS report? It would be appreciated!

A legitimate criticism. We would have focused more on California, but the demands of covering the furlough drama and writing our weekly State Worker column on Wednesday forced us to abbreviate our post. We included this link in the post, knowing that some users would want more info.

States with the highest percentage of workers who are members of a labor union or an employee association or workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union or an employee association contract: New York (26.6 percent), Hawaii (25.5), Alaska (24.7), Washington (21.5), Minnesota (19.6) and California (19.5).

Note: Watch for a special blog back soon regarding Thursday's furlough ruling.

January 26, 2009
Blog back: Furloughs, a flub and the "Foil Hat Club"

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Jan. 21 Controller Chiang says no to furlough order

Looks like another one of those boxes he's always talking about just blew up in the GOV's face.
Speaking of John Chiang standing up to the Governor....does anyone know the status of the lawsuit challenging the Governor's attempt to pay State employees federal minimum wage in the absence of a budget? I understood that the lawsuit was going forward in hopes of preventing him from doing this next summer (and beyond), but I've never heard an update/outcome.

The state court hearing on Gilb v. Chiang is Feb. 27. At issue is whether the Controller violated California's Constitution and the State Supreme Court's 2003 ruling in White v. Davis when he issued full paychecks to state employees without budget authorization last summer.

why is it that no one seems to remember that Schwarzenegger wants to impose furloughs AND lay off 20% of the state employees?

We mentioned in our latest Thursday State Worker column that both furloughs and layoffs are possible.

However, it's not accurate to say that Schwarzenegger wants to lay off 20 percent of state employees. Executive Order S-16-08 instructs DPA to "work with all State agencies and departments to initiate layoffs and other position reduction and program efficiency measures to achieve a reduction in General Fund payroll of up to ten percent."

Another part of the order requires that DPA "place the least senior twenty percent of state employees funded in any amount by General Fund resources on the State Restriction of Appointment (SROA) list."

SROA employees may apply for other jobs in state government. DPA's Web site explains the process.

Jan. 22 The State Worker: Furlough order's uncertainties cause anxiety

The calls for across the board 10% cuts is akin to an old time ship's captain calling to lighten the load by removing 10% of the ship's wood. No matter if the planks are his cabin walls or the ship's hull, 10% has to go. Sure, it's math simple enough for knee-jerk conservatives to understand but look at the ramifications. We need leaders who can find the right cuts to make and make them no matter who's comfortable bunk is lowered.

A thoughtful comment that makes a point using an apt analogy.

Jan. 23 From the notebook: Scenes from a rally

walkers and wheelchairs belong inside??? You come off like a jerk with a commment (sic) like that.

We included the note in the post to show that folks who appeared to be in ill health were braving cold weather to attend the rally. We took their presence as a measure of their devotion to the cause. On reflection, we can see how the note could be viewed as demeaning, although our intended message was the opposite.

Jan. 22 Pension contract initiative gets OK for petition circulation
Jan. 23 Pension reform crusader e-mails The State Worker

User reaction ranged from dismissal to distress over these two blog items about SoCal CPA Paul McCauley's efforts to change California's state employee pension system. A few supported his idea, if not his methods.

Your time for participating in sharing the economic pain is coming. ....spiking pensions is so naughty.....this guy may be a loon or Paul Revere....we will soon find out....he could end up being Tom Paine...motivate the producers to revolt against taxation, regulation, conflaguration (sic)....
This guy is a quack. So all we really need to get a ballot initiative is 700,000 signatures? Time to recall the governator
The proponent's proposition on pension reform and his other initiative on buying out oil companies are socialistic. It appears the proponent, a CPA, is touting his name for business using the guise of the initiative process for press coverage. I doubt it would pass and if it did would be unconstitutional. Just my opinion.
Jesus, what next? Where is our Union? Hello?
McCauley is a quack. His measure, even if enacted would be overturned by the court as unconstitutional.
Foil Hat Club. Keith Richman's proposal is the one to keep an eye on.

The URL in that last comment goes to The California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, which backed the California Public Employee Benefits Initiative in 2007. The ballot measure sought to cap benefits for newly hired public employees at every state and local government level in California. The organization was unable to rise the money for a petition drive, which killed the initiative.

We contacted Marcia Fritz, the foundation's treasurer and vice president about whether the organization might revive it. "Nothing solid has happened yet, but we are still pursuing this," Fritz told us.

January 9, 2009
Blog back: Battles, blunder and bargaining

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Dec. 30 The State Worker Year in Review: State worker wars

We asked users to add to our list. Here's what you suggested:

RE: taking sides. You forgot State workers versus Contractors. It's Schwarzenegger's ambition to implement Halliburton style outsourcing in California.
So, Jon, I think you need to add one more category: the reality of state employment vs the public perception of state workers.
Please add: Sacramento Bee v. State Workers. This happened when the Bee put up the State Worker salary database for crooks, stalkers, snoops and Bee profit under the guise that this information help flush out waste in government. I am STILL waiting on how this information helps identify government waste. All I see is the Bee making mad profits off of the backs of State Workers.

We covered that last one on our list, but we're OK with underscoring it by blogging back the comment.

Three quick bits of salary database info: (1) The Bee isn't making "mad profits" from the pay database or anything else online. The Internet accounts for about 10 percent to 15 percent of McClatchy revenue. (2) Bee data analyst Phillip Reese tells us that state workers themselves continue to keep the database popular. (3) The Bee plans to update the database with new SCO numbers soon.

Dec. 31 2009-10 budget: Impact on state workers; CPR revived

Looks like Dr. Schwarzenegger has scheduled a minor liposuction for a patient requiring a quadruple bypass.

Jan. 5 Cal-EPA set to close on first and third Fridays

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for boy_dunce.gifJan. 5 Cal-EPA furlough days not set, says spokeswoman

SacBee- credibility is an important thing. BreAnda Northcutt is a PIO for CalEPA and not DPA. Lynelle Jolley is the PIO for DPA. If you can't keep the story straight you shouldn't print it. What other errors might there be in this story?

Ouch. An inexcusable blunder. We made a strike-through correction on the blog so that users could see the error to which this comment referred but also get the correct agency reference. We appreciate sharp-eyed users pointing things like this out. Wish we could say it won't happen again, but we know ourselves too well.

Jan. 5 State attorneys file furlough lawsuit

Um.. Hey Jon, what story? Where is it? Do you really want us to comment on a title to a story? Well.. Ok

Some blog posts, like this one, are little more than one or two sentences with links to other material such as court documents, letters, press releases or news stories. Some posts are short riffs on a subject. Others are longer and closer to a traditional news story.

We're interested in what others think about this: Does our mix of posts serve you well? Are you looking for more analysis? Less? Do you have suggestions for new features or topics you'd like to see in The State Worker blog?

Jan. 6 SEIU offers furlough alternatives

Does anyone believe that this is going to save 100+ million dollars?

#1 might save some money compared to no furloughs, but not nearly as much as the forced furloughs.

#2 Can save money if no one is hired to replace the hired workers, but it will probably increase the states contribution to CalPERS to make up for the increased retirement payments.

#3 would probably increase state costs as they could not even shut down the buildings to save heat when everyone has the same day off.

#4 If employee health care contributions are frozen, then the state would have to make up the difference if premiums go up. They would save money if premiums go down, but what are the chances of that!

I am embarassed to be part of a union that publishes such trash. At least when the administration lies, they make an attempt to make it believable.

A voluntary program to reduce one's pay is not likely to garner many participants, IMHO.

The golden handshake (adding 2yrs to elig. retirees) is a common practice in corporate America, but as we're already short-staffed generally speaking, this will increase workloads and diminish institutional knowledge.

The two holidays are neat switcheroo for the life of the contract. They come back after it expires but it allows the state to defer those non-work days a bit.

Freezing health care contributions is a small ask for the employees but it is something as we will see our paychecks shrink with this year's increase in health costs.

I don't see this as a proposal the state will jump at but it does show that we're willing to negotiate. This isn't "playing dead". It gives up practically nothing. OK, it doesn't gain us much either.

We read the SEIU list and assumed it was intended as a starting point for negotiations.

Jan. 6 State hires firm for furlough lawsuits

How can the "State" hire attornies (sic) when the State's own attornies (sic) (who already represent the "State") have filed a lawsuit stating the furloughs are not legal! Who actually hired these attornies anyway? Who is paying for these attornies? I thought the "State" had no money to pay anyone that it already owes! Since it is the "Governator's" idea, why shouldn't he have to pay for them himself? Why should the taxpayers pay for all this phoney budget nonsense!
cn708652, most likely outside attorneys are necessary because the state attorneys also have a separate lawsuit as they are included in the furloughs.

DPA's attorneys, like all DPA staff, are not members of a union and are excluded from bargaining. They are not members of CASE, the attorney and judges union that is suing the governor.


January 6, 2009
Blog back: Newspaper cuts, rumor blogging and a 7-year-old's insights

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Dec. 29 State worker furloughs: The easy way out?

Since the Bee is suffering from poor circulation and over (sic) buying of other newspapers maybe there should be a 10% cut at the Bee. Of course it isn't the employees fault nevertheless you should take the cut anyway.

The McClatchy Co. has made numerous cuts, including 20 percent of its workforce, in response to the precipitous decline in newspaper advertising revenue and the debt it incurred purchasing the Knight Ridder chain. Read this story by Bee biz department colleague Dale Kasler for more details.

We'll leave it to others to thoughtfully draw similarities and differences between the state of The Bee and the state's financial mess, as did J.J. Jelincic in this Sunday op-ed piece.

I'd like to know just why the Bee believes that it is fair and equitable for state employees to have to take an extra 10 percent cut in pay in addition to the financial pain that they will experience as taxpayers. The state's current budget mess is undeniably a result of the governor and legislature's failure to produce real balanced state budgets over the last 5 years. State employees have no responsibility for or control over the state budget process. Just why then should they be penalized by having to accept a larger share of the burden than other taxpayers? Because it's easy? That's BS. I'd sure appreciate a response to my question?

Here are sections from two Bee editorials that lay out the editorial board's rationale for supporting furloughs. Click on each section to read the entire editorial.

Editorial: Crisis demands action on several fronts

For their part, Democrats are stubbornly opposed to any cuts in the state work force, which does little to bring their GOP counterparts to the table. Where Schwarzenegger hopes to save $263 million this year and $451 million next year by requiring one-day-a-month furloughs for state workers, leading Democrats are claiming that furloughs should be done only through the collective bargaining process.

That's bunk. In this type of emergency, lawmakers and the governor have the authority to enact furloughs, and they need to do it immediately to realize savings in the current fiscal year. Failure to do so could prompt the governor to consider layoffs of state employees. Intransigence by Democrats will also make it harder for Republicans to give on tax hikes, leading the Golden State closer to the brink.

Editorial: Democrats can share budget blame

So far, Democrats have failed to make even the most reasonable of concessions to save California from insolvency.

Consider the topic of state employee furloughs. To save $263 million this year and $451 million next year, the governor last month proposed that nearly all state employees take a one-day furlough each month.

He also proposed eliminating two of the 13 state holidays that state employees receive as well as the premium pay they get for working other holidays. That would save nearly $40 million this year and $74 million next year.

Democrats, however, are balking at the furloughs, a further sign of how beholden they are to public employee unions. By taking this stand, Democrats will likely force Schwarzenegger to order a less desirable alternative - mass layoffs.

Such layoffs would be far more damaging to individual families and Sacramento's economy than the shared sacrifice of furloughs. But the governor has to find ways to reduce payroll costs with a $28 billion, two-year deficit.

Dec. 29 Departments making furlough plans

Jon Ortiz: So you hear and then you also hear, we hear and also hear too! Print something you know is a fact!!

We were satisfied that the sources of this news were strong enough and of sufficient number to post the information on the blog. We're not in the business of blogging baseless rumors. We could not, however, reveal our sources. Hence the phrase, "We're hearing ..."

Given this user's confusion, we'll choose clearer, more specific words in the future.

And now, to lighten the mood ...

In years past
We might well have asked,
What's a default swap and why should we care?
But with the burst of a bubble
And associated trouble,
We now worry our houses might be worth less than air.

Programs will have to be axed.
People will have to be taxed.
The budget is something California's elected leaders have not mastered.
And now Arnold has proposed state worker furloughs; that...meanie!

But on a night that was late in 2008,
On a winter eve as Christmas drew near,
My son Max said to me "if Santa isn't real, that's a thing I don't want to hear."
"Wait 'till I'm 20, tell me then," he said.
He said this to me one night from his bed.

From a seven year-old mind comes an idea that may help us thrive.
Denial is something for which we should strive.
So with family and friends, let's bring in the New Year with a whole lot of cheer.
Because certainly, certainly recovery is near!

Terrific post proving once again that user contributions give this blog energy, entertainment value and insight.

January 2, 2009
Blog Back: Pay comparisons, pay cuts and Patton

Patton.jpgBlog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Dec 24 More about Sutter County pensions ...

I keep hearing that state workers make less than their counterparts in the real world, but nobody offers anything to back up that claim. If the pay in the private sector is really higher than in the public sector, why don't state workers take those higher-paying jobs?

The state Department of Personnel Administration since 2006 has commissioned a dozen studies on this issue. You can click here to find links to all of them.

Making public-to-private comparisons across job classes is difficult, since many government jobs have no private sector counterpart. Government-to-government comparisons have dubious value because they fail to reflect cost-of-living factors that vary by geography.

Still, the surveys that have tackled California state worker pay indicate that some state employees often earn less, even with benefits considered, than workers performing comparable duties in other governments or the private sector. Some earn more.

Dec. 25 The State Worker: Furlough scenario may come with steep price

Dear Jon Ortiz: The Senate Republicans are in favor of furloughs for state workers AND legislative staff, and a pay cut for the legislators. Please feel free to call ANY of the Sen Reps for a comment regarding this topic. And then you will be practicing balanced journalism! A Leg staffer

The Republican and Democratic positions on the budget are well-known. We're less interested in relaying the usual soundbites from elected state workers than chronicling the impact of their actions (or inactions) on California's unelected state workers. Legislators should feel free to call us ANY time regarding that topic.

And we've noted several times that elected state workers in either party can individually cut their pay at any time. To our knowledge, neither party has stepped forward to collectively lead by example.

Moving on ...

We enjoyed this amusing mini-thread that mixed humor, analysis and ... Patton?

This first comment responded to a user calling for a political "Patton" to "whack some big chunks out of the budget." User rwneill offered this "speech" by about the hard-charging WWII general, played in the movie by George C. Scott , to workers at the Franchise Tax Board.

If you've seen the movie, you can practically hear the gravel-voiced general exhorting the troops:

(Bugle plays) Patton: All this stuff you've heard about Californians not wanting to be taxed is a lot of horse manure. Californians love to be taxed. All real Americans love the sting of taxes.

Now we have the finest tax collectors and the best Blackberries in the world. We're not just going to audit the taxpayers, we're going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our Hummers. Wade into them! Spill their wallets & purses! When you put your hand into a bunch of gooey revenue, that a moment before was in your best friend's wallet, you'll know what to do.

I don't want to get any messages saying we're "holding our position." We aren't holding anything except the taxpayer by the nose while we kick them in the butt. We're going to go through their wallets & purses like crap through a goose!

All right, now, you know how I feel.
(Limousines rumble away)
(Dog barks)

User BobbyBaker continued the Patton theme (with the governor now playing Patton) to riff on state employee labor unions:

Reply to rwneill: Governor walks through the California Chamber of Commerce ICU. He is surrounded by bleeding bodies. Here is HiTech, bleeding terribly, he pins a purple heart on the pillow next to his good ear.

He moves to the next bed, where the Hollywood Film Industry lies legless and bound from butt to head. So wrecked, he can only be fed by an IV. He kisses him on the forehead, and prays over him.

(whimper, whimper, sniff, sniff) "What's wrong with you?"

The state labor union lays comfortably in a California King Size Posturepedic bed with Memory Foam, clutching the remote control to the only TV in the room. His bed tray is being cleared of the fine china and Filet Mignon he sent back for being too well done. His silk pajamas are freshly pressed.

"It's all this talk of budget cuts, sir." (whimper sniff whimper) "I can't take it anymore."


"Why your nothing but Yellow-Bellied Coward!! Why I oughta..."

The nurses union cuts the video feed.

High marks to both for creativity. Click here to see a "Patton" movie trailer. (At the 2:17 mark you'll see a scene from the film that inspired BobbyBaker's post.)

IMAGE: George C. Scott as Gen. Patton slaps a soldier. /

December 26, 2008
Blog back: the badge, the budget, bad real estate and bad names

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Dec. 22 Perata transfers another $400K in campaign money to his legal defense fund

Jon, I guess I'm starting to your point here about Perata or CCPOA. I only ask because this is the second time you have done this. Funny thing is, all the good stories about Correctional Officers out there and they never get printed and you can bet there is never a picture of a badge next to the story either. It almost appears as if you have dropped into the SACBEE habit of writing what sells, anti-CCPOA garbage. Let me know when you want to write about some of the hero's I work with every day.

News is that which is out of the ordinary. Both of Perata's financial moves meet that definition. So does the response to the first move by CCPOA's leadership.

We spent a bit of extra time retracing our steps because of the volatility of the story. We wanted the post to show all of the commentary and reporting on Perata and CCPOA leadership up to that point. But make no mistake: We do not confuse union activity with the difficult daily work of California's correctional officers.

And as to the use of the badge image, we quickly selected it to add visual interest. In retrospect, it was a poor choice. A photo of Perata would have served the blog better.

How come the Bee doesn't talk about all the money Citibank donated to politicians and the Bentleys the exec.'s drive. I guess it's OK for a corporation to get political access through campaign contributions but not for unions. The Bee is once again trying to sell lies and slam the union in hopes of privatizing so Arnold and the republicans can get more kickbacks.

This is the State Worker blog. If Citibank at some point becomes an agency for the State of California, we'll be happy to comment on its excesses. Until then, we'll remain focused on issues specific to civil service.

As to any "lies" contained in the post, please make us aware of any errors and we'll be quick to correct them.

Dec. 22 Unions, lawmakers react to furloughs, layoffs

Jon Ortiz - When is the Bee going to start investigating the hundreds of millions spent on crony contracts? Top executives leave Agencies and Departments and then go to work for consultants doing business with the agencies and departments they just left, often under contracts they themselves approved and facilitated while employed by the State. Does the Bee not see an ethical problem here?

We welcome any specific, credible tips that you might pass our way. Unfortunately, journalists don't have superpowers of discernment. We often need folks who know what's really going on to guide us to information.

Dec. 22 Wall Street Journal: CalPERS takes giant hit on real estate

Two blog users, two interpretations:

Amazing that this isn't getting more attention from state employees. CalPERS didn't lose 100% of your money, they lost 103% of your money. That means it was a scam. People should be outraged, but perhaps people are not educated enough regarding investment matters to understand what has happened here. YOUR RETIREMENT IS NOW IN TROUBLE.
Um, I hate to break this to you folks but there is a severe recession underway. If CalPERS was losing money when the economy was doing well then I would say, yes, there is a problem. But on Monday a large number of commercial real estate brokers asked Washington for a bailout, and they have other investors besides CalPERS. Furthermore, in case you haven't looked at your 401-K statement your mutual funds are down big time as well. So if CalPERS investment philosophy is wrong so is the entire retirement philospohy preached to millions of American workers from Wall Street these last 30 years. Take that you right-wing swine!

Here are a couple of links to put CalPERS' recent losses in perspective. Here's Bee colleague Dale Kasler's story from last month, "CalPERS' housing portfolio drops $3.2 billion."

Then check out how CalPERS and the LAO responded to a story last month that predicted a dire future for pension funds, including CalPERS.

By the way, name-calling ("right-wing swine") diminishes even the strongest points.

Dec. 22 Unions, lawmakers react to furloughs, layoffs

Wonderful! The Democrat legislature and the extortionist unions have collectively spent this state broke, and now the SEIU fascists will try to sue to keep the state paying even, if there isn't anymore money! State expenditures grew over 100% in the last 10 years, while population either rose slightly or stayed the same. Why was the money spent? Cut the expenditures now and keep it that way forever!!!

Sadly, neither liberals nor conservatives have a monopoly on tired labels ("extortionist unions," "SEIU fascists") that dilute their arguments.

Dec. 22 Budget impasse: Why the emphasis on state workers?

"What message is Schwarzenegger sending by pressing these two issues? What is the governor's aim in including them on this no-go list?"

As most of the posts before this one indicate: the Gov's actions are clearly meant to bust the unions.

Why now?

Two reasons.

One, he's lost a lot of favor with this GOP pals which he'd need to win back before trying for a US Senate seat.

Two, thanks in LARGE part to the Bee's anti-union "reporting" (and poor PR from SEIU, et al), the public sees state workers as "them" and not "us". The perception of this entity which employs over 230,000 people is held to a very different standard than any other large corporation. And, frankly, they don't realize all that we do for them because civil service, when it works, is practically invisible. Things We don't have a million dollar ad campaign like Apple or Coke. We just keep doing the job delivering services that make this state run.

Thoughtful "us" versus "them" analysis and a reasoned explanation of why government's good work often goes unnoticed.

December 19, 2008
Blog back: Concessions, time off and state worker haters

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Dec. 12 From the notebook: Supervisors association president talks about layoffs, budget

How are some of the 10,000 who were laid off in July doing? Let's hear their stories.

We're working on it.

Dec. 16 Redding lays off public employees

A potential problem is the employee unions agree to concessions and then the state/county/city proceeds to lay employees off anyway. Similar to Bank of America taking bailout money and laying its own employees off. I'm afraid the rank and file working public employee has little faith or trust in its respective government leadership. Private sector employees probably feel about the same.

A cogent take that draws an apt comparison.

Dec. 16 SEIU slams Republican budget plan

SEIU issued a propaganda piece with conclusions tilted towards its desired outcome. It never met a cut that it could really live with. During these severe fiscal times what is SEIU 1000 doing to cut its internal expenses so that it can cut dues to its members and fee payers?

We give credit to Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker for stating publicly that fixing the state's budget mess will require both spending cuts and tax increases. (You can read her remarks by clicking here.) Sometimes leadership means telling people what they don't want to hear. We think Walker did that.

But make no mistake: Unions don't exist to serve everyone's interests. They exist to serve their members' interests. It's not Walker's job to solve the state's financial crisis.

We e-mailed the union to ask about its dues and fair-share fees. As of this writing, we've not heard back.

The SEIU and Dems are basically lovers. Why is this news?

SEIU represents more California state employees than any other organizatiion. We hope that at least a few of those folks regularly visit this blog.

Dec. 17 Furlough letter a hoax, DPA director says

**********BREAKING NEWS: COPY OF HOAX LETTER PUBLISHED********************* Dear state worker: This is formal notice that you are now on unpaid furlough and have had your salary cut by 50%, BUT the good news is you have won the Nigerian Lottery and we have another position available for you. Please provide your SSN, photo ID, bank account number, and date of birth so we can appoint you as Office Chief of Caltrans Division of Staff Development and Workforce Planning. Plus we need you to send us $2,000 US to ship the treasure chest of money and cover the cost of your mandatory lobotomy. Signed, Dave Gilb, Director DPA

Thanks, "Dave."

Dec. 17 State employees get informal time off for the holidays

why (sic) does the bee find it necessary to constantly dump on State employees? Do we really live in a town that considers this news? Perhaps the bee should start publishing the amount of bonuses given to their lame journalists to see where our subscription dollars are being spent.

We didn't consider this post as "dumping" on state workers. It's information. The interpretation of that information rests with readers.

Our take: We see no reason for state workers to feel defensive about the holiday ITO. The state is not in a financial mess because state workers take a few hours off during the holidays for last-minute shopping or to spend extra time with family. Small employer gestures like this -- particularly in stressful times -- can actually make employees more appreciative and productive.

And withholding the ITO, which we understand has been a tradition, would probably have the opposite effect on morale and productivity,

Jon, this column needs a new tag line..."The State Worker"..."Chronicling The Civil-Service Bashing Of California State Workers"'s a tad bit more in line with what actually occurs....any true dialog is lost in the anger and hostility of the general public who think this is their "safe haven" to say things about State Workers they don't have the intestinal fortitude to say face to face...

We plan to address this troubling phenomenon in our next Thursday column.

December 12, 2008
Blog back: Pithy comments, privatization and personal attacks

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Dec. 4 Billwatch: State may freeze pay for workers making more than $150K


We appreciate the brevity and precision of this comment.

Dec. 8 Schwarzenegger warns of state worker layoffs

The more functions of government that can be moved to the private sector the better. Government jobs cost tax revenue, private sector create it. Outsource the DMV, and the majority of Caltrans.

It's not clear that outsourcing saves money.

The Professional Engineers in California Government offers information, like that found in this Senate staff report: "By whatever measure is chosen, state staff are less expensive than contract-out staff."

Meanwhile, the American Council of Engineering Companies California has commissioned its own studies, like this one, that asserts: We find that in fiscal year 2006-2007, the amount that the State must pay to utilize an in-house engineer ranges from $173,434 to $209,212, while the amount paid for an outside engineer averages $193,000.

One thing is for certain .. if Arnold wanted the populace riled up, he got it. I suspect that is his point. It reminds me of that old story about a college student who writes home with all manner of catastrophe -- I got my girlfriend pregnant, my car blew up, I've got meningitis ... etc. then ends with... NOT really, I just want to borrow $100 ... that doesn't seem so bad after all the other scenarios. Let's wait and see what is said in the next few days. Wait for the 'bait and switch.'

And then there's this comment ...

I once worked for the state and ... I was also part of a hiring team for my unit. ... I do understand first hand that there is dead weight in the state but there are also just as many if not more very hard workers with the state. There needs to be because of the slugs who would rather take 20 smoke breaks and read a book while others are picking up their slack. ... I agree that they need to be removed and the system as failed to allow that but you are categorizing ALL state workers as slugs and that is a bit unfair to those that do work hard.

Well said.

Dec. 8 More public employee concessions on the way?

And, no Jon, that last little paragraph lacking any concrete facts that would've shown just how vast the difference is between county and state workers does not cut it. You still close with the presumption that there's yet MORE state workers should sacrifice.

This comment closed a two-part post that accused us of a willingness to "twist any fact, contort any action in order to spin against unions," due to an anti-union agenda on the part of the newspaper and this blog.

Perhaps we should have included relative expense percentages that illustrated the heavier burden employee wages and benefits create for local governments. We'll plead guilty to hurried oversight while rushing to put up our post.

(By the way, we took pains to highlight the facts in yesterday's State Worker column. The piece was inspired in large measure by this blog post and the reaction to it.)

Dec. 9 'State WORKERS' vs. 'State Peace Officers'

Most state workers are underpaid. We are not underpaid because others are less underpaid. I think everyone acknowledges that "the badges" have done better than most public employees over the last decade.

"The badges" have done better because those who make the political decisions have put a higher value on those who control the rift raft (sic) and protect property than on those who make this a better and more just society.

The politicians have said the highest value is not to raise taxes. They have allowed the highways to fall apart. They have withdrawn investment in the future by under funding education. They cut up the credit card and replaced it with a second mortgage and send the bill to our kids. But they have not raised taxes. And we keep reelecting them.

The golden rule is still true. He who has the gold makes the rules.

Dec. 10 A 'cubicle cowboy' sings for food

This moron could have been working, but instead he did what most state workers do, goof off and write silly songs. It is time to either put these fat losers to work or let them go find real work.

Astounding. We understand the anger directed at state workers, particularly in these difficult economic times. We don't mind critics who nail us for the occasional spelling faux pas or misplaced decimal.

But personally attacking a man who is trying to help a charity feed poor people -- and a guy who does it in a creative and entertaining fashion -- strikes us a descending to a new low.

Dec. 11 The State Worker: Job cuts make unions rethink hard line

2009, the year unions go bust and the country will finally be free from the PC life of mediocrity. Next, send all pay raises, pensions, entitlements, days off etc to the ballot. We're all tax payers and their boss's (sic).........things will change fast.

We don't see any indication that unions will "go bust" next year. In fact, things could go the other way, especially if card-check legislation is passed. President-elect Barack Obama (who, by the way, received $29.2 million in campaign support from SEIU) favors the idea.

December 5, 2008
Blog back: The librarian, layoffs and liberals

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Dec. 1 Blog back: ... the 'trade' with Seattle

The State Librarian, Susan Hildreth, is an experienced library administrator. The fact she is leaving the top librarian post in the state is a sympton (sic) that other places have more to offer. In the last five years, the budget of the state library for journals that state workers use for their jobs has been cut 5 fold. Next year's budget will be worse.

Many California county law libraries now have bigger budgets than does the state library. So lawyers in state service now enter court with a professional disadvantage. The State Library, and some state agency libraries house and lend the materials that state workers need to carry out their daily jobs. Diminished information resources make it harder for state workers to do their jobs.

Apt points. An earlier Seattle Times story outlined the city's gleaming new library facilities and strong public support for the system. Also worth noting: Hildreth made $153,000 annually, according to state pay records. The Times reported that her successor in Seatte, Deborah Jacobs, made $178,000.

We asked Emily Heffter, the Seattle Times reporter who has been following the story, if she knew how much Hildreth's new job will pay. Heffter said that as of Monday the final terms had not been announced.

Dec. 2 Schwarzenegger: State now 'almost forced' into layoffs

What is he waiting for? Fire 50% of the state workforce NOW. We don't need 75% of what they do. Let the people keep their money. If you state workers don't like it, go get a job that actually generates revenue instead of relying on coercively extracted tax dollars from your fellow Californians.

As we noted a few weeks ago in our Thursday column, you could fire every single state employee paid with general fund money and still not completely close the budget gap. And we haven't seen any studies or audits supporting the assertion that "we don't need 75 percent" of what state workers do. Data, please.

Dec. 2 More details about possible state worker layoffs

Even if layoffs don't come to pass, it's likely that the next budget will have a more extensive furlough. For example, two or three days a month. Or a shift to a four-day workweek, a.k.a. four days a month furlough. With that in mind, plan ahead: Don't go overboard on your holiday partying and gift-giving. Cut back on spending and conserve your cash as 2009-2010 is going to be a very unpleasant fiscal year.

Our Bee business colleague and newbie Home Front blogger Dale Kasler on Tuesday wrote that the year-old economic recession is "shaping up as a long one." That means the state's tax revenues will take another beating next year and, according to some experts Dale has interviewed, maybe into 2010. Read his insightful Home Front post by clicking here.

Dec. 3 Still more about possible layoffs

This could also be Arnold's version of "The Shock Doctrine." According to author Naomi Klein repressive right-wing governments have a well established history of using crises and emergencies to push through radical economic changes that would be rejected by the populace under normal circumstance. Arnold has wanted to bust the public service unions and dismantle CalPERS for a long time. Now he can use the "shock and awe" of the present budget crisis to try and do so again.

An interesting take. We would extend that observation to left-leaning administrations, such as FDR's Depression-era public works programs and Social Security and LBJ's War on Poverty in the 1960s. Right wingers don't have a monopoly on pushing radical economic change in a time of crisis.

Jon - Did you even think to ask Ms. Jolley if she even has a "plan" to reduce the State workforce? Or do you agree that just whacking people indiscrimately (sic) is the best way to proceed? What amount of disruption in State operations does Ms. Jolley expect? What will be the criteria for laying people off? Performance Reviews? Seniority? What about contractors who get paid more then State workers? Will they be let go as well, or will we hire more of them? How many people let go does Ms. Jolley expect to never return to State service, resulting in an increase in costs of retraining later on? Are there any specifics at all?

We're working getting answers to those questions and more. In the interest of speed, we've put up information as we've learned it instead of holding back information until every jot and tittle is defined.

You asked, "Or do you agree that just whacking people indiscrimately (sic) is the best way to proceed?" Our answer: No.

Our sense as of this writing on Thursday afternoon is that layoff details haven't been hammered out. One frequent State Worker blog user sent an e-mail with this theory:

I think this threat can also be something towards the union to passive aggressively say (as opposed to saying anything to our faces or say "let's sit down together and work something out") we (the state) are not willing to negotiate for any increases, don't push us or we'll just cut some of your jobs.
December 2, 2008
Blog back special edition: nepotism

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Last Thursday's column on nepotism at the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board drew strong comments online, over the phone and in e-mail. Here's a small slice of what you said:

Nov. 27 State Worker: Nepotism poisons the workplace

The problem is pervasive throughout all state departments, agencies, and commissions. Between the unqualified civil service cronies and relatives and the politically connected or campaign donor appointees (equally unqualified), is it any wonder the state is in a shambles. The middle management through executive ranks in state government is PACKED with chair warmers who do little more than show up and collect paychecks (some don't even do that- 4C status allows a full day's pay just for making a brief appearance). There is no fear of consequence or repercussion- it is a common and well-known practice. "Merit system"? not in this state.

The State Worker responds: One huge problem with nepotism is that it trades leadership credibility for favors. Once employees witness a single instance of nepotism, they will assume that every management decision is colored by personal relationships. We have yet to hear someone talk about "a little" nepotism in their workplace.

The low number of reported cases is attributed to an employee's fear of retribution, not ignorance of the complaint process. Even the Whistleblower Protection Act of 2007 will not protect employees from employers who opt to ruin an individual's career instead of addressing the issue. It is my opinion that the problem of nepotism will continue until our institutions are mandated to implement HR policies that will make nepotism an exception to the rule.

TSW: We wonder about the 300 UIAB folks who didn't respond to the auditor's survey. How many didn't chip in out of fear that they'd be outed and suffer retribution? (A point we didn't mention in Thursday's column: auditors required UIAB staff to disclose their work e-mail addresses as a way of authenticating responses and weeding out duplicates.)

On the other hand, how many didn't share their thoughts because they don't see a problem? And how many didn't respond or played down the issue because they are part of the problem?

One blog user had this frank assessment:

This is nothing new in any career field whether in the public or private sector. You would hope the gov't would be better about such a thing but when it comes down to it, people hire people they know or have a connection to. Basically you can get upset about the matter or accept reality and get to networking (kissing you know what and making friends). I've been both the victim and the benefactor... definitely preferred the latter.

TSW: Another blog user familiar with the BSA sent a couple of e-mails to us with these tidbits:

Following your mention of BSA Report 2007-041 "Report of Recommendations Not Fully Implemented After One Year", in Thursday's edition, the report has been moved to quick link section at the top of the BSA webpage. I can assure you the report had been relegated to obscurity long ago as I check the BSA website regularly.

While BSA staff are great and the do a good job for the most part, the BSA process is simply a feel good exercise in futility ...

Prior to your mention last week one had to search sequentially in the main body of reports to find it. 2007-041 was released in early 2008 and was far down the list and was not linked directly at the top of the page as it is now. Your story either caused it to be moved to a more visible location or it is a function of most popular hits that moved it to the top of the page. Either way nobody cared about 2007-041 until you mentioned it.

In my opinion, BSA wants and needs attention paid to their work in order for serious improvements to be made. So if you contact them BSA's response to you will be something along the lines of: "Thank God someone finally took note of our work."

TSW: We've been running this blog and writing the Thursday State Worker column for about four months. We're still learning the ins and outs of the state bureaucracy. As we do, with your help, we'll get better at telling state workers' stories. That's why we're here.

December 1, 2008
Blog back: Legislative pay, the 'backstabbing' DPA, the 'trade' with Seattle

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Nov. 21 Local radio host Maiman on state workers, furloughs, pensions

There is a difference: We, the voters, can "fire" these State workers the next time they come up for reelection. We cannot do that with other State workers who we feel deserve it.

That said, I do believe the elected State workers should, as a symbol they "get it" turn in their State vehicles, State credit cards, and assume the costs we all must bear in order to maintain our employment.

There are counterpoints to this argument. If we hold down legislative wages and perks, elected state workers might be more vulnerable to influence-peddlers. Holding down pay and per diem might also keep some qualified people from seeking office because they wouldn't be able to support themselves or their families if they ran and won. And it's an important job; shouldn't the pay reflect that?

Nov. 25 SEIU says state 'refuses' to talk with union lawyers in the room, DPA responds

I would love to be elected to a State position for just one term. The first thing I would request would be an impartial audit of DPA. For toooo long the employees of this state have been beaten, backstabbed and broiled by DPA doing the bidding of whomever (sic) happens to be Governor. They have no pride, no morals, no heart, no empathy except for themselves. They believe and act like they are jury, judge and executioner! I for one think its time that the tide is turned on them so that they experience the type of suffering they deliver to State employees. That audit would reveal that they do not have the interest of the State at heart and I firmly believe the audit would call for wide spread reform and the dismissal of everyone in that department!

This seems a bit harsh. DPA folks are state workers, too, and they face many of the same pressures and problems confronting counterparts in other departments. Some have the thankless job of contract negotiations, which earns them the ire of many civil servants.

We have found DPA officials to be courteous, prompt and professional. Of course, we don't have to negotiate with them for our livelihood.

Nov. 25 Is Measure J the Prop 13 of pension reform?

Just because Orange County officials were too generous with themselves and county workers does not mean that the State of California has been wreckless (sic). Some other local agencies have also been too generous, but we need to focus on both sides of the problem. Non-government workers need reliable pensions too and we need to create a "CalPERS"-like organization to invest their and their employers' contributions so they grow and can sustain them with Social Security for as long as they live.

AB 2940 by Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, would have allowed private individuals and private sector employers to set aside money in retirement accounts administered by CalPERS. The bill got stuck in committee and died.

Nov. 27 UPDATE: California librarian gets Seattle job

She was traded for a player to be named later and a set of the unabridged Encyclopedia Brittanica.

November 20, 2008
Blog back: Language, 'lies,' and per diem

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Nov. 14 A Controller's Office employee speaks out

George Orwell, in his great essay "Politics and the English Language" cites the use of euphemisms as a sign of intellectual dishonesty. In the same spirit. Governor Schwarzenegger, the Sacramento Bee and others who inflict harm on State Workers are using the word "Furlough", instead of the more accurate "Wage Reduction".

As we noted in this recent post, language does indeed frame perception. However in this case, after much thought, we'll stick with "furlough" because the wage decrease directly corresponds to reduced working hours. A "wage reduction" in our mind is the same as a pay cut, which would be paying less for the same number of hours on the job.

Whether furloughs save money is another matter. Cutting the number of hours that the state is open for business doesn't mean that there's less business. The work still has to be done. It's possible that furloughed employees perform less efficiently because of added stress to do the same amount of work in less time.

If anyone has seen a reputable study about furlough impacts on workplace efficiency, please send the info along to us.

Nov. 17 How to save $5 billion without a furlough

My review of the list didn't reveal a single suggestion that doesn't take away state employee current pay, pension benefits or other benefits. State employees have no obligation to assume a larger burden of the budget deficit. Lying to suggest that they should, is shameful. Shame on the Bee for promoting and featuring it.

Our aim was to report the The California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility list and put it up for discussion. It was not an endorsement. We invite specific criticisms to counter "lies."

Nov. 19 UPDATE: Former Consumer Affairs employee sentenced for data download

Question: Have the 5500 state employees whose SSN's were stolen been notified?
Since the Mexican Mafia apparently has access to that info can identify theft, consumer fraud, etc be far behind?

We asked Andrew McIntosh, the Bee reporter who has spearheaded the Dumbrique coverage. Here's what he told us:

The breach happened late - after 5 p.m - on Friday, June 6. Consumer Affairs says it notified its staff and retirees of the breach at the end of the day on Monday, June 9. It did not disclose the seriousness of the breach and the link between Dumbrique and her husband, the jailed member of the Mexican mafia.

The Bee disclosed the fear of ID theft and the link to the Mexican mafia on Thursday, July 10 - almost a month after Consumer Affairs let its people know about the problem.

Nov. 20 Forbes article speculates that CalPERS could be the 'next shoe'

In a state that is always in the red, how exactly is CalPERS guaranteed. No stock market investment is ever guaranteed is it? Could you explain?

CalPERS can require that state and local employers increase contributions to make up any pension funding gaps. For the last few years CalPERS' return on investments was so strong that it didn't require any contribution from employers (and by extension taxpayers).

Given its heavy investment losses, it now appears likely that CalPERS will have to require employers to kick in more money in 2010. The increased amount, if any, depends on the value of the funds' assets on June 30, 2009.

Click here to read our Oct. 23 story in The Bee for details about the tie between CalPERS investment returns and public employer contributions.

Nov. 20 Column extra: Legislators who didn't take pay raise, per diem hike

We've been made aware of two other legislators who declined the October per diem increase.

To view a copy of Democratic Assemblyman Anthony J. Portantino's declination letter, click here.

For Republican Assemblyman Bill Emmerson's letter, click on this link.

We appreciate the heads up from folks working for both lawmakers. Anyone else that we've missed?

November 17, 2008
Blog back: Personal opinions, blog bias and a 'little haircut'

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Nov. 10 A state worker accepts Schwarzenegger's furlough, benefits cuts

Funny how the bee (sic) just wants to hear from people who agree with Arnold ...

We put out the call to workers who support the governor's proposal because we weren't having any problem finding workers who were willing to speak out against it.

Sac Bee, do you realize that the Whimpinator is our ultimate boss? Speaking to you over the phone, using our names in the paper - in some State agencies, that would be seen as an act of insubordination. And, certainly many civil servants would be held accountable - and it is possible in some instances termination could be the results (sic).

An interesting take that, if true, should spark some legal concerns. State agencies that we've talked to say that employees are free to speak and e-mail as individuals. Doing it on state time, however, is unwise.

Click here for a recent blog post about this issue.

Nov. 10 State responds to data security concerns

Mr. Ortiz, No one believes for one moment that you are not biased against state workers. Your final condescending statement that you believe most state workers "are not dishonest" doesn't fool us. This story is OLD, yet you run this article at a time when there is high scrutiny of state employees and much debate over mandatory furloughs for state employees.

True, the Dumbrique and Vue stories have been in the news for quite some time, but we thought the state's Nov. 6 policy memo deserved reporting, particularly because it came after those cases.

The Bee also featured a profile of Dumbrique the same day as this blog entry and her sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 19. We thought those events made the unfolding story blogworthy.

Sorry that the final sentence came across as "condescending."

Nov. 12 CalPERS housing investments lose 35 percent

well, to see the retirement of gov. employees go down doesn't make me feel bad for one moment. They get all the entitlements/freebies and we get social security.......I guess with that kind of loss, maybe they'll see how the average joe feels. Worse yet?....knowing that the taxpayer funds pensions etc that we ourselves don't even get. Hope it goes down 50% or more.

State worker pension benefits are guaranteed by the state, so if CalPERS' assets for some reason can't cover retirement obligations the state (and by extension, taxpayers) must make up the difference.

The state's pension plan is not a "freebie." Nearly all state employees pay 5 percent of their wages toward their retirement. And remember, they pay taxes, too.

Nov. 12 'State worker' versus 'state employee'

The Governor's plan is an attack on state employees not a "little haircut". I don't know where the Governor gets his hair cut. My hair cuts cost $25. A monthly unpaid day of leave amounts to $163.20 pay cut. This is one month's groceries for me.

Well said.

Nov. 14 State workers counter Schwarzenegger plan

Jon, Jon, Jon, Trying to use a State employee from bargaining unit one to make it look like we support our own cuts. Why would we want to eliminate jobs, and accept temporary pay cuts?

We're not trying to "use" employees to promote an anti- or pro-state worker agenda. Our sole aim is providing a forum for thoughtful opinions and vigorous debate by presenting information and ideas.

That means all ideas, even those that challenge the status quo.

We get criticism from readers for going easy on state workers, and we get criticism for promoting a bias against state workers. As long as we're catching heat from both sides, we're satisfied.

November 10, 2008
Blog back: furloughs, federal workers and a foreign leader

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to furlough workers and cut their holidays and a few other benefits was the hot topic this week. Readers posted more than 400 comments to news stories about the proposal and related State Worker blog items.

Oct. 29 Order in the court: Arguments heard in employee pay lawsuit

What about the more than 10,000 state workers who were laid off on July 31? Where do we stand with regard to this lawsuit?

Gilb v. Chiang doesn't address whether the governor can lay off part-timers or retired annuitants. That part of the executive order, while unpopular in many quarters, has not been contested.

Nov. 6 Schwarzenegger wants furloughs, fewer holidays for state workers

Although there are many good people works (sic) for state there are also some "dead weight" workers as well...even Hugo Sanchez would not hire them for his government. I think Governor's decision is absolutely appropriate.

We think you mean Hugo Chavez, the controversial Venezuelan president and ardent critic of the United States.

State workers should be put on notice - not many people feel sorry for you. You took a job with the state, the state is a business, therefore if that business is in trouble, so is your job and all the perks.

We agree that the public isn't widely sympathetic to state workers, however the government is not a business.

It doesn't operate for profit (or to break even, apparently) and must conduct its affairs openly. It has a monopoly, but it's supposed to entertain dissenting opinions and treat people equally. It is above market forces -- government will never close, no matter how lousy the economy or how poorly it conducts it's affairs.

Government also has power that private business does not, including taxing authority and the ability to throw rule breakers in jail.

Someone told me that Federal workers get a "cost of living" increase every year. If this is true, why doesn't CA do it?

The federal government can operate with a debt ($10 trillion right now and growing). California must operate with a balanced budget.

Nov. 6 Schwarzenegger pens letter to state workers

So why ... eliminate two Holidays to save money? The workers are paid either way and the building is lit up so the net effect is that it costs more to take away the Holidays. The logic of one cancels out the logic of the other
This argument was raised in comments across several news stories and blog posts about the governor's proposal. It makes an assumption that the state's daily operating costs outweigh the value of the work produced by state employees.

Ask yourself: If it costs the state more money to take away Lincoln's Birthday and Columbus Day, would the state save more money by giving employees two more holidays?

Nov. 7 State workers rip Schwarzenegger's job furlough plan

You know, this reporter, Jon Ortiz, is really misrepresenting the reality of this issue. He has over-melodramatized the conflict. The unions and the Governor have been working together for weeks before this announcement came out. There are many folks who understand and sympathize with his plan. This is a pretty bad piece of journalism.

A union representative who did not want to be named divulging details of labor talks, said that DPA officials informed labor leaders of the governor's proposals shortly after the Nov. 4 election.

We have yet to hear from any union representatives at any level who support the proposals.

State workers don't march in lockstep, so we agree that "many folks" in the state workforce aren't hostile to the plan, but they're probably in the minority. Certainly no one we spoke with accepted what Schwarzenegger wants to do. But, as the next comment proves, the state workforce isn't monolithic ...

As a state employee, let me say something that will blow your minds: I want a furlough. Looking back, if my present job were offered to me at 95% of the pay but with 12 extra days off per year, I'd gladly take it......

We would love to hear from state workers willing to talk on the record who share this point of view. Call us at (916) 321-1043 if you want to chip in your comments.

Hey Jon, there's no hyphen in Arnold's last name.

True enough, oh sharp-eyed reader. We'll blame the rogue hyphenation on difficulties moving the copy from The Bee's software for print publication (where the Governor's lengthy last name often gets hyphenated to fit the newspaper's column width) to the software we use for online publishing.

Besides, we got it right seven out of eight times!

October 31, 2008
Blog back: The State Worker responds to your comments

Blog backs review your thoughtful and provocative online comments, amplify points, answer questions, correct our mistakes and humbly accept your warranted criticism.

Oct. 27 SEIU donations to Obama, against McCain exceed $16.5 million

I am sickened that my SEUI (sic) dues are being used support Obama or any political person. Those funds are to support our benefits.

Unions cannot use member dues for political purposes. They can, however, accept donations to their political action committees (PACs). That money can be used for political purposes.

Oct. 28 Public employees, public records and public trust

Yeah, what's your deal Jon? You really ought to at least try to appear impartial and objective versus unabashed muckraker.

We want to tell state worker stories. Sometimes those stories will be positive. Sometimes they won't. Our aim isn't impartiality or total objectivity. It's fairness.

Oct. 28 Furloughs? Pay cuts? State worker rumor mill in overdrive

Does anyone really think that the state will cut pay and furlough workers? Never happened, never will...

State workers took a 5 percent pay cut in mid-1992, which was restored at the end of 1993.

Oct. 29 Order in the court: Arguments heard in employee pay lawsuit

This lawsuit is about a stop gap measure the Governator tried to use before the budget was passed. It has since been passed (yes it is a pitiful joke of a budget I know). This issue is now moot and a waste of time and money.

The folks at DPA tell us that the administration is pursuing the lawsuit because Schwarzenegger wants to know whether the controller is constitutionally prohibited from paying more than the federal minimum wage to state workers without a budget in place. (The Supreme Court of California found that this was the case in White v. Davis.) If he prevails before the end of the 2008-09 fiscal year and the 2009-10 budget talks bog down, he might issue another temporary pay reduction order.

Oct. 30 Prop 5 goes after correctional officers

... Nobody cleans up in prison where the drugs are brought in by the guards.

We looked around, briefly, but couldn't find any online data supporting or refuting this assertion.

Oct. 30 California state worker ratio second-lowest in the nation

Does the Center's study include comparisons of states as to which categories it employees workers. How do these states compare in computerized record keeping that may reduce the need for support workers? Does the study look at states by factors as to reliance on state services versus that of county and city services? Why do the states near the top of the list need more employees per capita?

No. The data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, which focuses on geography, work status (full or part time), employee function / department and the level of government (state or local).

Great questions, though!

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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