The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

September 26, 2013
Column Extra: How pigs flew in Ohio

Our State Worker column in today's Bee looks at a high-profile Ohio state government technology project that -- gasp! -- launched on time and essentially within budget.

Officials with the Ohio Department of Public Safety looked high and low for documented models of successful government technology projects and found virtually nothing to inspire them when they started the project in 2007. When they finished their work in 2012, they wrote a brief look back at the experience.

The flying pig reference in the paper's title comes from the comment by a discouraged project team member who "believed the task to be so overwhelming and impossible that 'pigs would fly' before this project was completed," the report said.

Later, as the group notched incremental wins and gained competency and confidence, the flying pig became a mascot and a symbol of pride.

Exodus Case Study - Ohio Department of Public Safety August 2012

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes, the documents and the observations that inform what's published.

September 12, 2013
Column Extra: A stealth SEIU Local 1000 check envelope?

We wouldn't have written today's State Worker column about SEIU's Knox v. SEIU Local 1000 nonmember repayments, but someone who received a check for more than $200 sent along an image of the envelope an explanation letter that went with it. We'll let the employee's email explain a concern about the envelope:

Below is a graphic of the envelope the SEIU 1000 settlement check I received in the mail this week. As you can see it is very basic like it should be tossed as junk mail. In preparation to shred I opened the envelope and the attached letter with a check for over $200 was received.

In showing it to fellow state workers we all are shocked on how this was received. We believe the union is doing this on purpose to make it look like junk mail so people will throw it away and after 6 months the check is void.

We are shocked and saddened when we pay over $70.00 per month union dues and then we are treated like we can be duped and will not open the envelope. Sad that our union would do this.

I hope you can write something about how SEIU 1000 sent out these checks.

We've embedded the check image and the letter below. As to the envelope's nondescript front, it actually makes sense to us. Marking mail in a way to draw special attention to monetary contents might encourage theft.

Side note: We ran the letter by James Young, whose signature is on the bottom of it, to verify authenticity. Young is an attorney with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which describes its mission as eliminating "coercive union power and compulsory unionism abuses."

Young said that the letter was authentic, although something at the bottom was added somewhere along the line during the printing process: a union bug.

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes, the documents and the observations that inform what's published.

June 20, 2013
Column Extra: The cost of California state workers' step raises

The State Worker column in today's Bee references several numbers about employee compensation costs as it lays out arguments against the 4.5 percent raise in the new SEIU Local 1000 deal.

One articulated by Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff is that state workers' automatic raises have continued all along, even during California's darkest budgetary years. The interactive chart above depicts those costs.

Remember, the numbers reflect only the incremental expenses for each budget cycle, so the data doesn't roll the costs forward from one year to the next. The controller's office crunched the numbers for the Republicans in April 2011, so the data for that year doesn't cover all 12 months of the budget cycle. That's why we didn't refer to it in today's column.

The numbers also cover step raises for all employees and the cost to both general funds and special funds.

Republicans also reviewed several years of budget info and concluded that payroll costs grew a cumulative $9.9 billion from 2006-07 through 2011-12.Here's a breakdown of their analysis.

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes, the documents and the observations that inform what's published.

May 23, 2013
Column Extra: Where the $14.6 million for MyCalPays will go


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Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at the how budget decisions regarding the failed MyCalPays project highlight the inherent tensions of governing.

In the case of the twice-failed state payroll program, officials face two related questions: Should the state commission an audit that would help other government mega-projects avoid the same errors? Or should it hold off on a detailed inward-looking forensic review -- a delay that would severely affect a review's findings and value -- to avoid undercutting potential litigation between the state and the MyCalPays contractor?

The Brown administration's May revision of the governor's proposed 2013-14 budget adds $14.6 million for cleaning up the wreckage from the failed system, but nothing for an independent review.

So where will that money go? Here's a breakdown provided by Controller John Chiang's spokesman Jacob Roper:

May 16, 2013
Column Extra: California's decades-long civil service civil war

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100609 gavel.jpgToday's State Worker column looks ahead to Friday's much-anticipated reports on additional appointments and how they will test Gov. Jerry Brown's 2-year-old reorganization of the State Personnel Board and the Department of Human Resources.

The piece also references the long, combative history between CalHR (formerly the Department of Personnel Administration) and the personnel board as they jostled for power over various aspects of the state's hiring and workplace policies. At one point, SPB sued the then-DPA over contracts it negotiated that allowed some state employees to take disciplinary appeals to a different panel than the personnel board.

Here's the 2005 California Supreme Court ruling in State Personnel Board, et al. v. the Department of Personnel Administration. The court sided with SPB.

State Personnal Board, et al. v. Department of Personnel Administration

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes, the documents and the observations that inform what's published.

May 9, 2013
Column Extra: CalHR should report on IT project, analyst says

130509-HEWLETT-PACKARD-SERVER.JPGOur column in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at the California Department of Human Resources' retooling of the state's job application and testing processes after taking over the project from the State Personnel Board.

The piece references the Legislative Analyst's Office summary of findings on the Examination and Certification Online System, which is now estimated to cost roughly twice its original $4.7 million estimate with a 2017 launch date -- nearly two years late.

Print space limitations kept us from mentioning that LAO recommended the Legislature require CalHR make quarterly progress reports.

"Given the history of this project," the LAO's summary says, "... we recommend that the Legislature require (the Technology Agency) and CalHR jointly submit quarterly reports on the project's progress to the chairpersons of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and fiscal committees."

CalHR "pretty much agrees," said department spokeswoman Pat McConahay. "We're going to be very transparent about this."

IMAGE CREDIT: Computer server image, courtesy Hewlett Parkard / Sacramento Bee 2000 file

February 28, 2013
Column Extra: Check out the CalPERS long-term care brochure

CALPERS_COURTYARD_JAY_MATHER_2005.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee examines the contention that CalPERS guaranteed it would never increase premiums for some of its most costly long-term care policies.

We've heard that from dozens of angry policyholders who feel like they were snookered by CalPERS materials and representatives in the 1990s pushing "inflation protection" coverage. The products annually adjust claim benefits to counter rising health care costs. Policyholders bought in despite the comparatively higher cost in the early years of the plans. The premiums, they were told, would remain fixed.

We've never seen any documents that use the word "guarantee" to describe locked-in premiums. Policyholders say insurance representatives freely used the word.

CalPERS officials today distance themselves from those assertions. They say that for years the numbers for those policies haven't added up for several reasons: disappointing investments, higher-than-anticipated claims and loose underwriting.

We've embedded below two pages from an old CalPERS brochure passed our way by a policyholder who enrolled 15 years ago. It uses phrases with some wiggle room, such as premiums for inflation-protected policies "are designed to remain level." Charts compare premiums between a policy without inflation protection and one that does. The same brochure also says premium increases require board action -- and there's no caveat for inflation-protection policies.

The policyholder wrote the notes on the document. We added the highlights.

January 24, 2013
Column Extra: Survey says many state-managers paid less subordinates

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our State Worker column in today's Bee looks at state manager pay and cites a survey of Association of California State Supervisors members that asked whether they earned more, less or the same as their subordinates. More than 40 percent of respondents said they earned the same or less.

Hat tip to the supervisor's group for sharing this survey tally sheet with The State Worker:

January 17, 2013
Column Extra: Jerry Brown versus unions over holiday pay

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee updates the lengthy court battle over disciplinary threats made against state workers who might stay home on Lincoln's Birthday and Columbus Day, even though the state dropped those occasions from its paid holiday list in 2009.

As our column explains, the tussle between Gov. Jerry Brown and three unions isn't in appellate court because of a dispute between labor and management over whether the holidays were legally removed. It's a question of whether this provision of the Dills Act was violated.

The unions won the first round in Sacramento Superior Court. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger , the state's employer-in-chief at the time, appealed. Brown has kept the appeal going.

Click here to see the 3rd District Court of Appeal calendar of the case.

Here's the original verdict by Sacramento Judge Timothy Frawley that the administration is challenging:

December 6, 2012
Column Extra: More on new California state retirement formulas

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Today's state worker column considers how the change to cheaper pension formulae for state workers hired on or after Jan. 1, 2013, will impact the workplace -- and whether the law will stick. In particular, we looked at the change in the "normal" retirement age from 55 for most of today's workforce to age 62 for most workers hired next year and later.

Because of space constraints, we skipped over several details that would have complicated the column's essential point: The new rules create a de facto second-class employee whose total compensation is lower than that of more-senior colleagues under the better formulas.

For example, we didn't mention that miscellaneous state employees hired after Jan. 15, 2011, were put into a plan at 2 percent at 60. And we made just a passing reference to public safety employee pensions because, while those groups receive some of the most costly benefits, they represent a smaller percentage of the state workforce. Miscellaneous employees constitute about two-thirds of the state's 217,000 workers, so we focused on that category.

But State Worker blog users generally want more information than casual Bee readers, so what follows are some of the resources that lay out more details:

November 15, 2012
Column Extra: The fiscal, political pressure on retiree health care

ha_pres_obama34203-thumb-300x234-19600.jpegWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee looks at an item on Gov. Jerry Brown's unfinished business list: cutting the cost of state retiree health benefits.

If you haven't read the column, check it out and then go through these links to dive more deeply into several points it touches on:

October 4, 2012
Column Extra: Three cheers for union workers!

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee mentions a few lessons that public employees can draw from the events leading to the recent NFL labor agreement with the union that represents its referees. When you strip away the sports entertainment aspect of the story, what's left is a private-sector union representing 121 part-time entertainment regulators who have been earning an average $149,000 per year with pension benefits.

The public would be appalled with those terms in a public-sector union contract, but as the video below shows, football fans absolutely gushed when the refs' lockout ended last week. We assume that most didn't know the new deal increases referees' average annual pay by 38 percent over seven years, offset by a phase-out of defined benefit pensions. And if fans did know, would they care?

September 20, 2012
Column Extra: More about unions' and business interests' political spending

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee cites data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks the path of political cash in California and other states, including money spent by labor unions and business interests.

We choose to look at contributions in 2010 for today's column because that's the last election year for which there is complete data. The institute uses quarterly reports from the California Secretary of State, so the figures for this year didn't include many of the biggest contributions for and against Proposition 32 that have come in since the end of June. Those numbers will be released early next month. We'll post them here.

On a related note, starting today we're tapping into an automatically-updated Proposition 32 contributions widget that will appear whenever we blog about the measure. The widget, left, comes courtesy of Maplight.org, another nonpartisan group that tracks political spending in California and elsewhere.

September 7, 2012
Column Extra: Internal memo cautioned economic slump would boost pension costs

120907 MARTY MORGENSTERN.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

As we researched California's public pension history for our Thursday State Worker column, CalPERS' media relations office passed along a 1999 memo from then-Department of Personnel Administration Director Marty Morgenstern. The note to managers -- who would no doubt field questions from rank-and-file employees about why the state didn't just implement the increases -- explained why Morgenstern wanted to bargain them. He was particularly concerned about obligating the state pension system to life-time pension promises to employees based on fabulous-but-fickle CalPERS investment returns at the time:

You may be asked, "Why not the entire CalPERS package, isn't the Board paying for it?" The answer is no. CalPERS' earnings do help, but the State must still contribute millions of dollars each year to CalPERS to pay for our pensions. It is true that the State contribution has gone down of late. The biggest reasons ... low inflation, a good economy and the fact that CalPERS returns on investment have been greater than expected. Yet there is no guarantee that our economy will continue to grow at the same rate. More importantly, perhaps, we do not believe it is prudent to assume that CalPERS will continue to earn record-high investment returns. Like buying a home with a variable rate mortgage that has no cap, the risk would be too great.

The document embedded below includes Morgenstern's full memo and the Legislative Analyst's December 1999 take on the pension increases authorized in Senate Bill 400.


September 6, 2012
Column Extra: CalPERS' rationale for 1999 public pension hikes

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100607 CALPERS HQ.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Today's State Worker column contasts CalPERS' measured reaction to recent public pension legislation to roll back benefits (now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's signature) with the fund's support for retroactive pension upgrades in 1999. Here's the brochure CalPERS issued back then, explaining why retirement benefits should be enhanced and how those increases would have no meaningful fiscal impact on employer costs.

The legislation on Bown's desk rolls back benefits to pre-1999 levels for workers hired Jan. 1, 2013 and later.

August 24, 2012
Column Extra: Judge says Stockton bankruptcy can break retiree health guarantees

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Writing is often as much about deciding what to leave out as it is what to put in. One of the items we decided to cut from Thursday's State Worker column was a reference to Association of Retired Employees of the City of Stockton v. City of Stockton. The case is significant because it signals the court's view of contract and pension law vs. bankruptcy law.

Association of Retired Employees of the City of Stockton v. City of Stockton

August 16, 2012
Column Extra: Read the California state engineers' furlough grievance

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our State Worker column in today's Bee notes that Professional Engineeers in California Government filed a grievance triggered by furloughs started in July. The union claims that the Brown administration violated the PECG contract by suggesting a 2012-13 budget that funds only 95 percent of their members' wages.

The then-Department of Personnel Administration (now dubbed the Department of Human Resources), said that the June 4 grievance was "premature" because it was filed before the July 1 start of furloughs so that no union members had suffered a loss.

The administration also said that Brown was acting in his role as governor in presenting a budget plan, not as the state's employer. Therefore, the administration said, Brown didn't violate the union's contract.

PECG attorney Gerald James asked for arbitration to keep the association's options open, but hasn't pushed the matter any further, union spokesman Ryan Endean said Wednesday.

PECG Jun4, 2012, furlough grievance and related correspondence

August 9, 2012
Column Extra: California's state worker layoff process

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Today's State Worker column references the complexity of the state's process for laying off employees. Using the flowchart below, we came up with 14 steps: three before a department announces a layoff and 11 steps during and after -- and that doesn't include what CalHR has to do.

The process is negotiated with unions. Here's a chart that lays it out, backed by nine pages of explanation:

August 9, 2012
Column Extra poll: Furloughs versus layoffs in California

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, much of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our State Worker column today looks at why state employee unions may agree to speed up the layoff process in exchange for a no-furlough guarantee when labor contract talks commence next year.

Clearly, the best scenario for state employees would be pay raises, not any sort of pay reduction. And state workers and the unions say the state needs to pay more attention to soaring outsourcing costs.

But if the state budget continues to struggle and Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature again force the unions to accept some sort of payroll cut in fiscal 2013-14 to help close another deficit, what's the least-bad solution?


July 5, 2012
Column Extra poll: More state labor concessions down the road?

Today's State Worker column looks ahead at what accepting furloughs while under contract means for state employee unions next year.

Our conclusion: Unless voters approve Gov. Jerry Brown's tax hike on the November ballot, state employees will likely face more furloughs in the 2013-14 budget year. If the unions were willing to do it while under contract this year, how can they resist pay reductions next year when nearly all bargaining units' agreements expire July 1, 2 or 3, 2013?



June 21, 2012
Column Extra: How much do California state departments spend on retired annuitants?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100831 calculator.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Today's State Worker column looks at the arguments for and against the state's hiring of retired annuitants and notes that all of the positions have flaws.

Here's a breakdown of $15 billion that state departments paid their employees in calendar 2011, with a breakout of how much of that went to retired annuitants:

June 14, 2012
Column Extra: The proposed California budget furlough language

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

The Bee's State Worker column today dissects some of the politics in play over Gov. Jerry Brown's state worker pay reduction proposal as lawmakers prepare to pass a budget on Friday.

Here's the proposed budget language that confers authority on the governor to furlough state employees, among other things, to cut $839 million in the state's employee compensation costs.

Worth noting: Unlike the furlough era under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, all 21 bargaining units that represent some 183,000 organized state employees have current contracts through July 1, 2 or 3 of 2013, adding a new legal wrinkle to any litigation that imposing furloughs would spark.

RELATED POST:
Live Chat: The Bee's Jon Ortiz hosts: California Supreme Court rules on furloughs

Section 3.90

June 7, 2012
Column Extra: What Jerry Brown said about pension reform

Thumbnail image for 080811 Jerry Brown.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee notes that Gov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday that pension reform is high on his agenda and that this week's public pension vote in San Jose is a wake-up call to lawmakers.

Hat tip to San Francisco Chronicle reporter @Carla Marinucci who tweeted video of her brief interview with Brown:

March 15, 2012
Poll: Weigh in on Ward v. California Department of Corrections

We've heard some strong sentiments from phone callers and email correspondents today about the James Ward case covered in today's State Worker column and companion blog post.

By that (extremely unscientific) measure, opinions are split 50-50.

If you haven't yet, check out the reporting and documentation about the prison chief dentist's fight to get his job back, then take our (extremely unscientific) poll:

February 2, 2012
Column Extra: Skelly case set precedent for state worker discipline

Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, some of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee looks at the state's employee disciplinary process. An aspect of the topic that we had to leave out was the legal precedent for the system we outlined, specifically Skelly v. State Personnel Board.

January 26, 2012
Column Extra: CCPOA's statement about its paid leave debt agreement

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, some of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Before we filed today's column, we asked JeVaughn Baker, spokesman for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, to comment on the union's paid leave agreement with the state. We asked if the agreement was fair to members and whether the deal was prompted by CCPOA's pending Dawe litigation.

We received Baker's emailed reply shortly after we filed the column on Wednesday, but we still want to give voice to the union's perspective.

Here's Baker's email:

Hi Jon,

We reached what we believe is an equitable settlement that avoids the cost of further litigation and is fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of the state. ... As for your second question, the settlement is a stand alone case and there is no correlation between it and the Dawe matter. Chuck Alexander and our legal staff have been working on UPL for some time now and we are pleased that the agreement has been made and both parties can move forward. Thanks Jon.

JB

January 19, 2012
Column Extra: More about reorganizing California government

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, some of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Here are a few sources that underpinned today's State Worker column in The Bee:

The Little Hoover Commission's summary of gubernatorial reorganization plans dating back to the first term of the Ronald Reagan administration.

"Boards and Commissions in State Government" by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley.

"Little Hoover Commission's Role in Governor's Reorganization Process"

December 8, 2011
Column extra: CalPERS assessment of Jerry Brown's plan

Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our State Worker column this week looks at the recent hearing held by the Legislature's newly created Conference Committee on Public Employee Pensions. Here are some CalPERS references that were the source of numbers in the column.

Here's CalPERS' preliminary analysis of Brown's pension reform plan.

This link opens a fact sheet on CalPERS pension statistics and trends through fiscal 2010-11, including a table of employee pension contribution percentages.

October 13, 2011
Column Extra: More about state personal service contracts

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, some of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee about a new law governing state personal services contracts invalidations distills information from several sources:

The State Auditor's awkwardly-titled, "Departments of Health Care Services and Public Health: Their Actions Reveal Flaws in the State's Oversight of the California Constitution's Implied Civil Service Mandate and in the Departments' Contracting for Information Technology Services."

Assembly Bill 740, which is intended to add heft to State Personnel Board decisions that invalidate personnel contracts.

An AB 740 fact sheet published by the bill's author, Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills.

A May 18, 2011 letter and attachments from SEIU Local 1000 attorney Anne Giese to state Personnel Board Chief Counsel Chian He, laying out the union's concerns about food service contracting at two Veterans Affairs facilities.

October 6, 2011
Column Extra: Union coverage, opinion polling about labor

111006 Poll on union approval.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, some of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee cites several statistics about union coverage of U.S. employees and public opinion polling about organized labor.

Click here for more information about the 75-year-old Gallup polling (pictured in the graph above) of responses to the question, "Do you approve or disapprove of labor unions?"

We've also put together this spreadsheet on public employee and private employee union membership and coverage using data compiled by Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson on unionstats.com.

September 1, 2011
Column Extra: More about Brown pension plan rumors

080811 Jerry Brown.JPGWith just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee looks at rumors bouncing around the Capitol that Gov. Jerry Brown is about to unveil a public pension agenda, call for legislative hearings between legislative sessions and then push the issue early next year as a carrot for Republicans he might need to woo for some sort of tax vote.

A persistent rumor we didn't mention: Brown will announce his proposals before the Legislature adjourns on Sept. 9. Several labor sources said that they believed the governor might even try to ram through public pension legislation before the session ends next week. Here's how the administration shot that down:

August 11, 2011
Column Extra Poll: How well do departments discipline?

Today's State Worker column looks at how a provision in Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to merge the Department of Personnel Administration and the State Personnel Board might affect workplace discipline throughout state government.

Writing the column got us thinking: What do state workers think about employee discipline?

So we're asking:

June 2, 2011
Column Extra: The hearing on the departments' merger

With just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp-up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that don't make the cut.

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee touches on Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to merge the Department of Personnel Administration and the State Personnel Board.

The Little Hoover Commission is meeting this morning to hear testimony about the idea. You can watch the proceedings on the California Channel. Here's the agenda with the list of speakers:
Little Hoover Commission Agenda, June 2, 2011

May 26, 2011
Column Extra poll: Is the CalPERS gift investigation a big deal?

Our State Worker column in today's Bee looks at the Fair Political Practice Commission's investigation into gifts received by CalPERS administration and staff. Since the FPPC doesn't disclose details of investigations until they're done, there's plenty that we don't know about the CalPERS situation.

As today's column reports, board President Rob Feckner said he'll pay $800 for three meals that he forgot to report and a fourth that he undervalued in the last five years.

Our sense is that many of the alleged violations involve similar reporting lapses. But it only takes one or two big violations to create a new PR headache for the fund.

May 19, 2011
Column Extra: The $410 million pension contribution swing

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee notes that the state's employer pension contribution for fiscal 2011-12 will run about $410 million less that it would have been without the higher employee contributions negotiated first by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then continued in contract agreements negotiated by Gov. Jerry Brown.

What follows are CalPERS' actuarial estimates that show the exact figures. Note: The report was printed before Gov. Jerry Brown signed the measure with the last six contracts into law this week, so the third column, "With Increase in Member Contributions for All Agreements (Includes those not Ratified Yet)" actually includes the estimates of those newly-ratified deals:

May 12, 2011
Column Extra: Cutting the education budget

With just 400 to 450 words for our weekly State Worker column, most of what we learn each week never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that inform what's published.

Our column in today's Bee mentions how the state's funding for K-12 and community colleges has taken hits for the last several years. We've fielded some emails this morning asking where we got the numbers in the column.

The figures came from H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Department of Finance. Palmer sent the 16-slide PowerPoint presentation below that lays out the budget situation. Slide No. 13 shows the cuts to education.
Budget Discussion

March 17, 2011
Column Extra / From the notebook: The Field Poll

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgColumn Extras give State Worker blog users notes, quotes and details that inform our weekly State Worker column. From the notebook items expand on news stories that we write. This week, we're combining both features into one post.

Our news story and The State Worker column both reference findings from a Field Poll on unions and public pensions released to the public this morning. We thought State Worker blog users would like to see the poll tabulations and the Field Research summary of the results.

Click here for the tabulations.
Click here for the Field Poll summary.

March 11, 2011
Column Extra: Did CASE get a better deal than SEIU?

Space limits our Thursday State Worker column to about 450 words, so much of what we learn in the ramp-up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that don't make the cut.

We've been hearing some rumblings about the tentative agreement between Gov. Jerry Brown and California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment. The critics, nearly all of them SEIU-covered, are particularly upset over the deferred 4 percent increase for top-step employees at the end of the contract and the extra 1.73 hours of paid leave that the attorneys will accrue each month.

The deal negotiated by SEIU Local 1000 in October has a 3 percent deferred raise for the top step and no extra hours of paid leave each month. It's that 1 percent difference, plus the CASE deal's extra paid leave, that's prompting some SEIU-covered state workers to shoot some heated e-mails our way.

So what's the story? Did Brown throw a little extra something to the union that represents lawyers who not so long ago worked for the former attorney general? Is the CASE deal sweeter than the one negotiated by SEIU Local 1000?

Here's what sources familiar with the talks tell us:

February 3, 2011
Column Extra: Which state workers have expired contracts?

Thumbnail image for LAO Union breakdown.jpgSource: Legislative Analyst: 2011-12 Budget:The Governor's Employee Compensation Proposals

With just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp-up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes, the observations and statistics that don't make the cut.

Today's column notes that tens of thousands of state employees are working under expired contracts. The chart above, from a review by the Legislative Analyst's Office, lays out which bargaining units have deals and which don't.

January 13, 2011
State workers talk about Jerry Brown's cell phone order, part 2

Our State Worker column in today's Bee gauges reaction to Gov. Jerry Brown's order that 48,000 state cell phones be taken out of service. We asked state workers what they thought about it. This is the second post (click here for the first one) on state worker reaction to Brown's crackdown:

I was in a meeting today which had 12 people in it. 6 including myself offered to turn them in. Cell phones are a leash. I have to carry 2 at all times my personal one and my work one. They gave me a Blackberry and now I'm expected to answer calls and emails 24/7. Take them back and eliminate that and other waste.

December 16, 2010
Column Extra: More about Brown and furloughs

With just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp-up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that don't make the cut.

Our State Worker column in today's Bee notes that Gov.-elect Jerry Brown can't do much about state worker furloughs, either politically or legally.

Let's delve a bit more deeply into some of the legal possibilities. What options/arguments might Brown use to address furlough litigation? We talked to several labor attorneys about what lies ahead. Here's what they said:

November 18, 2010
Column Extra: The CalPERS retirement numbers

Space constraints limit our State Worker column on Thursdays to roughly 425 words, so much of what we learn in the ramp-up to writing never sees print. Column Extras give State Worker blog users more information -- the notes, the quotes, the data and the documents that inform the weekly feature.

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at the rise in state employee retirements this year. Below, two tables show CalPERS first-time retirement checks issued over the last few years. The first table shows initial pension checks to all fund members. The second distills state worker numbers.

Note the state worker increase in July 2010. You can figure most of those new retirees applied 30 days to 60 days before they received their first check.

CalPERS Retirements Through October 2010

October 14, 2010
Column Extra: Read the Department of Social Services memos

101014 john wagner.jpgSpace constraints limit our State Worker column on Thursdays to roughly 425 words, so much of what we learn in the ramp-up to writing never sees print. Column Extras give State Worker blog users more information -- the notes, the quotes and the documents that inform the weekly feature.

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at one small sliver of state government, the Department of Social Services, and how a well-intentioned Monday e-mail from Director John Wagner illustrates confusion, even at the highest levels, over how the 2010-11 budget and state employee furloughs.

Click here to read Wagner's Monday memo to the troops. Here's the text of the e-mail issued on Wednesday to reel in the incorrect info.

September 30, 2010
Column Extra poll: The toxic Toxic Substances Control tweet

Space constraints limit our State Worker column on Thursdays to roughly 400 words, so much of what we learn in the ramp-up to writing never sees print. Column Extras give State Worker blog users more information -- the notes, the quotes and the documents that inform the weekly feature.

Our two-part column in today's fiber/cyber Bee notes the Department of Toxic Substances Control closed down its Twitter account on Wednesday after a hacker posted a tweet with a link to a porn site. The item was online for about two hours.

When The State Worker learned of the problem, we took a picture of the offending tweet. We're posting that screen shot here, with spray paint over the porn link:

100929 DTSC tweet painted over.JPG

What do you think?

August 5, 2010
Column Extra: Read the broken lock e-mails

Today's State Worker column takes a ground-level look at the budget impasse, and how it appeared for a while that it would literally take an act of the Legislature to get a broken employee entry door lock fixed at the Inglewood office of UIB's Southwest Primary Adjudication Center.

A state worker prompted us to write the column after faxing along two e-mails to staff from Ron Myracks, who comes through in his memos as a concerned mid-level manager caught by forces beyond his control.

Here are Myrack's July 22 and July 23 e-mails to staff about the lock, which we understand was being repaired late Wednesday afternoon:

July 22, 2010
Column Extra: More about the state's legal costs

Thumbnail image for 100609 gavel.jpgWith just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes, the documents and the observations that don't make the cut.

Today's State Worker column mentions the resources spent by the state to litigate furloughs and state worker minimum wage. Taken together, furlough and minimum wage lawsuits have cost the state more than $2 million so far in outside lawyer fees and court costs -- and that doesn't include state employee staff time that could have been spent on other things.

The state can't yet pay for services rendered on July 1 or later because the litigation money comes from general fund. Since there's no general fund budget in place, there's no appropriation for this month's legal expenses.

We're working to get more information from the Department of Personnel Administration for resources spent on minimum wage litigation, which until now has been handled by its own attorneys. But we've written plenty about the administration's furlough litigation costs:

July 14, 2010
What do you think will happen with minimum wage?

As Friday's court hearing on minimum wage approaches, we want to know what State Worker blog users think will happen.

We're sticking with the prediction made in this July 1 State Worker column: Between Chiang and the Legislature -- and now, the unions -- there are too many moving political and legal parts for this to happen by July 22, the last day for mass payroll changes to be made for checks issued Aug. 1.

But, admittedly, we're notoriously bad at making predictions.

June 1, 2010
Blog Back: 'Damage control'

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 hailed our May 21 post about a May 11 meeting between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chief Justice Ronald George as proof of a conspiracy at the highest levels to deny a fair hearing of furlough litigation.

We then wrote last week's State Worker column questioning whether the fix was really in. We knew that some readers would fire off charges that we're a shill for the court and/or the Schwarzenegger administration.

A sample of what the critics said in a related "Column Extra" blog post:

May 27 Column Extra: More about Ronald George

Jon - You have made it very clear what side of the fence you are on. The Schwarzenegger administration should be very grateful for your service.

May 27, 2010
Column Extra: More about Ronald George

Thumbnail image for 100527 Ronald George.jpgToday's State Worker column looks at whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Supreme Court Justice Ronald George conspired to trade a bump in the judicial funding in the May budget revision for a furlough litigation decision that favored the governor.

Our conclusion: Nope, despite our skepticism and journalistic love of a good, legitimate conspiracy.

So who is Ronald George? Read his profile on the court website by clicking here. The Metropolitan News-Enterprise ran this story not long after George took office in 1996.

The State Worker column today refers to George's annual address to the Legislature. This Supreme Court Web page contains links to his annual "State of the Judiciary" addresses dating back to 1999.

George also has been at the center of a furlough controversy. With the Judicial Council's Administrative Office of the Court putting millions of dollars into a controversial statewide computer system that could ultimately carry a $2 billion price tag, the council decided to close courts one day per month.

George says the computer system is vital to effectively running the far-flung state court system. He and many other judges also voluntarily cut their own pay by 4.65 percent, equal to the one-day furlough ordered throughout the judicial system.

But as Bee colleague Robert Lewis has reported, some judges have blasted the computer system upgrade as a boondoggle that is needlessly draining court resources.

And George is a key voice in how the judicial branch spends SB 1407 funds, which two years ago gave the courts $5 billion in bond money for courthouse construction to be paid through a mix of court fees, penalties, and assessments. Here's the court's SB 1407 Web page, which lays out the projects approved so far for funding.

PHOTO CREDIT: Chief Justice Ronald George speaks during a March 5, 2009 hearing on voter-approved Proposition 8, which banned gay marriages. / Paul Sakuma, Associated Press

May 27, 2010
Column Extra: Supreme Court justices coming up for election

Now that the state Supreme Court has jumped into the furlough fray -- and its leader is the topic of a conspiracy theory involving Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- we're taking time in today's State Worker column and blog posts to look how the court works, particularly Chief Justice Ronald George.

Unlike U.S. Supreme Court justices who are appointed for life, California voters get a crack at state Supreme Court justices. George is one of three justices up for election this year.

Here's a list of the seven judges on the state's highest court and when they're up for election:

100527 SC Justices.JPG

Click here for more about Supreme Court elections. (The download includes information about lower court elections, too.)

May 27, 2010
Column Extra: The state Judicial Council

Space constraints limit our State Worker column on Thursdays to roughly 400 words, so much of what we learn in the ramp up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give State Worker blog users more information -- the notes, the quotes and the documents behind the weekly feature.

Thumbnail image for 100527 judicial council seal.jpgOur State Worker column in today's Bee looks at the latest furlough litigation conspiracy theory that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George secretly agreed to trade judicial budget funding for a furlough litigation decision by the high court.

Since writing about the meeting in this Friday blog post, we've had time to look a bit more deeply at how the state's highest court operates, the chief justice's role in the system and the fiscal relationship between the court and lawmakers.

We'll share some of that background information in a few posts today. For starters, check out at the Judicial Council website by clicking here. You can read a fact sheet about the council by clicking here. Check out the expenditures for the judicial branch by clicking here. Page 6 has spending totals for fiscal 2008-09.

IMAGE: www.courtinfo.ca.gov

May 20, 2010
Column Extra Poll: What do you think will happen with labor talks?

May 21, 11:53 a.m. editor's note: The broken link to the poll has been repaired.

Today's State Worker column looks at the distance -- at least so far -- between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state employee unions as they talk about new labor contracts.

Which leads us to our poll question:

May 20, 2010
Column Extra: The latest on state employee labor contract talks

So what's going on with contract talks between the state employee unions and the Department of Personnel Administration?

As today's State Worker column notes, we've heard from several sources that some unions have been talking to the Department of Personnel Administration about new labor contracts. But officially not much is going on.

Bargaining Unit 5, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, last month submitted a proposal to extend its current deal, which expires July 2. You can read the CAHP proposal here in less than a minute.

Here's DPA's initial proposal to CAHP. It really doesn't say much more than, "Let's talk about cuts."

Click here for more about the state's bargaining process. This link opens the "sunshine" meeting schedule through June 30.

May 14, 2010
Column Extra: More on state's pension payment to CalPERS

Hold on: Maybe the state isn't going to have to come up with another $600 million for pensions next year.

That's the word from Jason Sisney, state administration director for the Legislative Analyst's Office.

After reading our column Thursday on CalPERS actuaries' proposal that the state boost employer pension contributions to $3.9 billion, Sisney says the final amount might be lower. Here's what he said in an e-mail Thursday afternoon to The State Worker:

It is unclear to us if the 2010-11 state contribution dollar amounts listed in the CalPERS agenda will prove to be accurate. That is because the payroll assumptions that underlie those calculations are estimates. In effect, they appear to assume state payroll growth in 2010-11 when, in fact, that growth seems unlikely. Determining for budgetary purposes the exact changes in state pension contributions (that is, the dollar amount contributed) is very difficult now because the furloughs complicate year-to-year comparisons.

Bottom line: we are unsure if the year-over-year change actually will be $600 million, less, or more. (The better comparison, in fact, for budgeting purposes may be comparing 2010-11 pension costs to 2008-09 or even 2007-08 costs, before the furloughs.)

We will be working with the Legislature, CalPERS, and the administration to calculate, as best we can, a real dollar amount estimate based on the percentage rates CalPERS will adopt.

No doubt, the likely increase in employer contribution rates (that is, the percentages of payroll contributed) is real and significant and meaningful. My point would be that the dollar amount to be contributed in 2010-11 may well be less than indicated in CalPERS' agenda.

Also important to note that only about half of the dollar amount increase, whatever it is, will fall upon the General Fund. Because of this and the fact that the administration already assumed some of this rate increase in its January budget, this decision likely will result in a new increase in the 2010-11 General Fund budget problem of much less than $600 million.

May 6, 2010
Column Extra poll: Judges and furlough decisions

Our column in today's Bee picks up the thread started last week with these two blog posts:
Do gubernatorial appointments foreshadow furlough rulings? and More about the recent Supreme Court furlough decision.

We want to know what you think:

April 29, 2010
Column Extra: The ruling that OK'd withholding state payroll

Space constraints limit our Thursday State Worker column to roughly 400 words, so much of what we learn in the ramp up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give State Worker blog users more information -- the notes, the quotes and the documents behind the weekly feature.

Our State Worker column today looks at whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will again order state employees' wages held to the federal minimum allowed if lawmakers fail to pass an on-time budget.

But how does the law allow that?

The power to impose the federal minimum wage is tied to White v. Davis. The California Supreme Court said a 2003 decision on that state law doesn't authorize employees' pay beyond the legal minimum in the absence of money appropriated for wages in the state budget. So, when budget talks deadlock when there's no funding set aside for payroll, the door opens to temporarily cutting wages.

Click here to download White v. Davis. The key findings are summed up on pages 4 and 5, including this paragraph:

(W)e conclude that under the applicable California statutes, state employees who work during a budget impasse obtain the right, protected by the contract clauses of the federal and state Constitutions, to the state's ultimate payment of their full salary for work performed during the budget impasse; that is, when state employees work during a budget impasse, the state becomes contractually obligated ultimately to pay employees the full salary they have earned. At the same time, however, we conclude that the Court of Appeal was correct in determining that state employees do not have a contractual right actually to receive the payment of salary prior to the enactment of an applicable appropriation, and that the Controller is not authorized under state law to pay those salaries prior to such an appropriation. Thus, state law contractually guarantees that state employees ultimately will receive their full salary for work performed during a budget impasse, but state law does not authorize the Controller to disburse state funds to the employees until an applicable appropriation has been enacted.

The Schwarzenegger administration says the law compelled the governor's 2008 order to the Department of Personnel Administration to issue letters to the controller to withhold pay to the federal minimum. But clearly the decision was at least partly political as well as legal. After all, Schwarzenegger and the Legislature in earlier years had failed to agree on a budget by the June 30, but 2008 was the first time he invoked White v. Davis to withhold wages.

March 18, 2010
Column extra: Read Cate's letter to CCPOA

Space constraints limit our Thursday State Worker column to roughly 400 words, so much of what we learn in the ramp up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give State Worker blog users more information -- the notes, the quotes and the documents behind the weekly feature.

Our column in today's fiber and cyber Bee looks at the latest developments in the running battle between the state and the California Correctional Peace Officers' Association over a multimillion-dollar union paid leave tab that has been running since 2005.

We mention a Mar. 11 letter from CDCR Secretary Matt Cate to CCPOA (it's cosigned by DPA Director Debbie Endsley, but for sake of space, we didn't mention that in the column).

You can read Cate's letter by clicking this link. We've also requested the CCPOA letter referenced in the Cate missive. We'll post those when we receive them from CDCR.

February 11, 2010
Column extra: View the CCPOA Union Paid Leave documents

With just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes, the documents and the observations that don't make the cut.

Today's column, which you can read by clicking here, notes that Corrections and the Department of Personnel Administration are ready to unleash the lawyers on CCPOA to recover about $4 million in Union Paid Leave money. And CDCR is ready to pull the UPL plug on six people currently on UPL unless the union coughs up some cash.

Check out these links for more details about the dispute:

The 30-day notice letters from Corrections SecretaryMatt Cate and DPA Director Debbie Endsley to CCPOA VP Chuck Alexander.

The summary of UPL billing to CCPOA through through May 2009.

The 2006 press release about then-Inspector Gen. Matt Cate's report that CDCR "mismanaged" $12 million in resources tied to union paid leave.

February 4, 2010
Column extra: The memo, the numbers, a quote

With just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that don't make the cut.

Today's column lays out why the Division of the State Architect is going to a "self-directed" furlough program for architects who review school construction plans. One thing we didn't mention in the column: The division also stopped alternative work schedules for affected employees while it presses to reduce "bin times."

If you haven't already, read the column by clicking here and then check out these links for more info:

The State Worker spoke to Bruce Blanning, executive director of Professional Engineers in California Government, which represents the 200 or so architects switching to self-directed furloughs at DSA. We asked him what he thought of the policy: "It's a pay cut," he said.

"The governor may be able to tell people to stay home and not be paid -- that's what's in the courts right now," Blanning said during a brief Wednesday afternoon telephone interview. "But the governor doesn't have the authority to tell people to come to work and not be paid."

As we mentioned in the column, the Schwarzenegger administration says self-directed furloughs are legal and necessary for the state to conduct its business. An Alameda judge ruled the the policy is illegal for state prison officers. Schwarzenegger is appealing (although CCPOA contends the that appeal is flawed). Read more about the CCPOA lawsuit by clicking here.

December 10, 2009
Column extra: Whitman on labor contract negotiations

We're snowed under today with e-mails and phone calls about our column about state worker pensions in today's Bee. The responses are all over the board.

Some readers are criticizing the column for failing to spell out all of the nuances of employee pension formulas. Those folks think we didn't write enough.

Others think our aim in writing about the topic is to foment state worker hatred in the private sector. For them, we wrote too much.

A few people said they liked the column, but for different reasons. Some felt it outed unreasonably rich state worker pension benefits. A couple of others were pleased that it highlighted the fact that state worker benefits aren't all the same.

The column springs from comments Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman made last week. We wrote about them here and posted a brief audio clip from a longer recording by Capitol Bureau colleague Jack Chang.

State Worker blog users, some who support Whitman and some who don't, have asked if we could make the entire 40-minute file available. Unfortunately, our blog software's uploading capacity won't allow that. But here's another clip that captures more of what Whitman said when asked about the impact of labor unions on government. This time she talks about how she would handle contract talks, especially during this recession cycle.

November 5, 2009
Column extra: Are state workers enabling bad government?

The State Worker column in today's fiber and cyber Bee notes that we've entered a 12-week stretch of four-day work weeks for state employees because of holidays and "Furlough Fridays." Our sense is that, for several reasons outlined in the column, the public may not notice.

But it's clear that this will intensify the pressure some state workers have felt in the Schwarzenegger furlough era to do the same or more work in less time.

You could argue that we've arrived at this point because the economic recession has exposed the many poor decisions made over many years by lawmakers and the public (via ballot initiatives) about state revenues and resources. Many (Most? All?) state workers would argue that Schwarzenegger's furloughs are bad policy that unjustly punishes state workers for matters over which they have no control.

A state worker friend put it this way: "Give them more and they'll always take more, especially when they don't deserve it."

So if that policy is trying to get 40 hours of worth of work from state employees but paying for 32 hours, what's the appropriate response? How much harder should state workers be expected to work? And as the new performance level becomes expected, does that mask the consequences of bad decisions that might be altered if the pain of furloughs was more acutely felt by elected officials and the public?

If you're a state worker and you're killing yourself to get your work done, are you enabling bad government? Or are you exercising a laudable work ethic?

October 15, 2009
Column extra: More about the WIC system shutdown; read the furlough report

With just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp up to writing it never sees print. Column extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that don't make the cut.

We goofed. We first mentioned the Senate Oversight and Outcomes furlough report on Wednesday without linking to the report itself -- a clear oversight on our part. Click here to download the 15-page document, which we wrote about for today's State Worker fiber/cyber column in The Bee.

Our column today also mentions a massive computer system failure on Furlough Friday that shut down WIC for thousands of poor mothers and their children by freezing the check-writing capacity of about 650 local offices that administer the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children program.

The California WIC Association believes "Furlough Friday" made a bad situation worse. The group outlines Friday's events in this press release. Laurie True, the association's executive director, said the matter is particularly galling to her members because furloughing WIC staff at the Department of Public Health, which administers the program, doesn't help the general fund. The program is paid with federal dollars.

Click the link below to read WIC Nutrition Division Chief Linnea Sallack's e-mail about the computer failure.


September 10, 2009
Column extra: Correctional officer overtime

With just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that don't make the cut.

Today we looked a bit at state correctional officer overtime through the lens of Tuesday's CDCR report by the Bureau of State Audits. (We blogged about the report when it was released. Click here for that report.)

The column in today's fiber and cyber Bee includes overtime figures for this calendar year that weren't part of the audit. As we noted, the numbers are down significantly from last year.

You can click this link to see the year-over-year January through June numbers we received from Corrections in response to our request for overtime figures. Disregard the last paragraph leading into the 2008 numbers: Department Deputy Director for Fiscal Services Dave Lewis told us in an interview on Wednesday that the drop in OT this year isn't a result of furloughs. Instead, as the column mentions, it's from policy changes that exclude leave time from counting toward the threshold for overtime and an influx of new hires through last year.

August 20, 2009
Column extra: The state layoff spreadsheet

Editor's Note: At the request of the governor's office, The State Worker has substituted a different version of the spreadsheet available via the link in this post. Modified Aug. 21, 2009.

Our Thursday State Worker column is limited by space, but visitors to this blog get extra info, Web links, notes and quotes that don't see print but still inform what we write.

Click here to download the Excel spreadshieet we reference in today's TSW fiber and cyber column.

The numbers, administration spokesman Aaron McLear told us, are "fluid" (the update is from July 7). Still, we think they give a sense of what the administration is thinking about present and future position cuts.

August 6, 2009
Column extra: The Local 1000 master contract and CPI numbers

Column extras give State Worker blog users notes, data and insights that inform our weekly companion columns.

We thought you might like to see the data behind today's State Worker column, which you can read by clicking here. Click here to see the raw numbers from the Local 1000 master contract and the Consumer Price Index that fed the chart. Tap this link to download a chart that represents the numbers.

August 6, 2009
Pay raises fall far short of inflation

This item ran in The Sacramento Bee's State Worker column on August 6, 2009

The e-mail from a Sacramento Bee colleague started like this: "Hey, I got this from my cousin, a stateworker. Is this accurate? Apparently it ran some place in the Bee ... "

Yes it did. Sort of.

My co-worker was asking about a comment on The State Worker blog, which runs as a daily companion to this weekly column.

The comment floated on more than one blog post before entering the e-mail rapids offered up "the facts for those very few interesting (sic) in the truth" about state worker pay raises since 1991.

After tracing wage increases from then until now, the post concluded that state worker pay has gone up just 11.5 percent in 19 years. Given that the Consumer Price Index had gone up nearly 57 percent during that same period, the commenter reasoned, pay in terms of buying power has fallen a bit more than 45 percent.

"If your real life job paid you 45 percent less than you were paid in 1991, you'd be screaming bloody murder," the anonymous commenter concluded.

It's impossible to lump raises for all state workers into an annual percentage.

The unionized government work force has roughly 200,000 or so employees represented by 12 labor organizations. It's a vast, diverse group ranging from custodians to doctors, clerks to engineers. And don't forget non-union managers.

All get different contract deals with varying terms. In a given year, one group might get, say, a 5 percent bump while another gets nothing.

So let's look at one big group, Service Employees Local 1000, which represents 95,000 state employees.

Last year it took $1.60 to buy what it cost a dollar to purchase in 1991, according to the CPI. Meanwhile, Local 1000 employees' cumulative salary increases over the same period added about 30 cents to that 1991 dollar.

To be fair, Local 1000 members who are in highly demanded professions, such as nursing, have gained more raises. But those exceptions aside, the union's cumulative raises last year trailed inflation by about 50 percent.

Then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered two furlough days for nearly all state workers. In July, he added a third, a roughly 14 percent pay reduction.

Now Local 1000 wages are back down to where they were five years ago, about 15 cents above that 1991 dollar.

Of course, inflation hasn't taken any furlough days, so the union's wages now trail the CPI by about 77 percent.

From one perspective, this is wonderful news that a bloated bureaucracy is getting serious about cutting back. Pensions next?

But if it's your check that's shrinking, it's a disaster.

Call The Bee's Jon Ortiz, (916)321-1043. Read his blog, The State Worker, at sacbee.com/blogs.
e Pay raises fall far short of inflation

July 30, 2009
Column extra: Local water boss asks for state worker furlough exemption

aqueduct.jpg

As we noted in today's State Worker column, General Manager James Beck sent a letter on behalf of the Kern County Water Agency  to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on July 13 requesting that he exempt from furloughs key Department of Water Resources employees working on the massive State Water Project .

You can read Beck's letter by clicking here. His argument: State Water Project employees are not paid from the general fund and "the furloughs of DWR employees potentially cause further harm to the state's economy by interrupting/delaying water supplies to the agricultural users of the San Joaqin Valley region of the State."

Beck didn't get what he wanted. Click here to read the response letter from DPA.

IMAGE: The California Aqueduct / www.water.ca.gov

June 18, 2009
Column extra: More about state attorneys

Today's TSW column, which you can access by clicking here, looks the career of former state prosecutor Patrick Whalen and how his experience tells a larger story about pay disparities among law professionals in California's public sector.

The column makes reference to several court cases, including a recent decision in the long-running batte over pay parity between California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment (CASE) and the Schwarzenegger administration. If you'd like to look more closely at the court's May 28 ruling against the union,click here.

This link will take you to the most recent blog post about the State Compensation Insurance Fund furlough lawsuit that Whalen won on behalf of CASE. The post includes a link to San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter Busch's final judgment in favor of the union and the Schwarzenegger administration's Notice of Appeal.

You can view a 2007 state survey of attorneys' total compensation by clicking this link. PDF page 8 shows a state attorney's entry-level median pay at 52 percent below the Bay Area's median. In other parts of the state, the spread is less. In Central California, entry-level state attorneys earned 6 percent more than the median.

June 12, 2009
Column extra: Links for info on wages, union trends and more

Thumbnail image for computer_desk.gifOur column in Thursday's Bee was the third of a three-part series on state worker pay and benefits, but there's a wealth of information on the Web for folks who want to do their own research.

Here are a few sites to get you started:

The California Department of Finance Reports and Periodicals page

Fedstats

Unionstats.com

The U.S. Census Bureau's State & Local Governments page

Economic Indicators

The Bureau of Labor Statistics

Sidenote: The BLS on Wednesday released its "Employer Costs for Employee Compensation Summary" for March 2009. Click here and then scroll down for a list of data available, including stuff on state and local government employees.

We'll tap The Bee's research guru and I-Tools Tips blogger Pete Basofin for others and we'll share what he finds here or over on his Web site. And if blog users have any good links for similar data, send 'em our way.

Thanks to TSW blog user CS for suggesting this post.

IMAGE: Hasslefreeclipart.com


June 4, 2009
Column extra: Details behind the state median wage

Our State Worker column is limited by space, but visitors to this blog get extra info, Web links, notes and quotes that don't see print but still inform what we write.

The column in today's fiber and cyber Bee mentions that the state's median annual wage for the state's civil servants in 2008 was $66,006, excluding folks who work for the college and university systems.

Here are some details about that number, sent to us by Bee colleague Phillip Reese, the database guru who ran the analysis using numbers provided by the state:

Pay Group
........... Most common job titles .........................................Median Base Pay, 2008
Bottom 20% ...............Typist, Custodian ........................................................... $34,678
Next 20% .............. Staff Services Analyst, Employment Program Representative...$50,143
Next 20% ........... Associate Governmental Program Analyst .............................. $66,006
Next 20% .............Transportation Engineer, Correctional Officer .......................... $83,938
Top 20% ..............Highway Patrol Officer, Registered Nurse ............................... $110,858

Another statistic we didn't include in the column: While the average annual state worker base pay in 2008 was $63,815, include overtime and the number rises to $70,627.

March 26, 2009
Column extra: State worker holiday pay change

Here are some documents that add context to today's State Worker column:

The budget bill, SBX3 8, that changes holiday pay policy. Scroll down to the second page to the section that starts with (4).

SEIU Local 1000's Master Contract. Go to PDF page 48. Item G covers full-time employee holiday pay.

DPA's Wednesday memo to Personnel Management Liaisons, "Change in Holiday Provisions."

CAPT's flyer to members, "CAPT reps take issues to DPA heads."

December 18, 2008
Column extra: Recently retired CO on Perata, CCPOA and fear

ccpoa-thumb-200x200.gifFor today's State Worker column about reaction to CCPOA's $600,000 defacto donation to Don Perata's legal defense fund, we reached out to a number of correctional officers, hoping for an on-the-record take from someone who hadn't been quoted before.

One person we contacted, Dave Freeman, is a recently retired CO and union supporter.

We asked Freeman, "How do you feel about what Perata did?" He responded, although his e-mail landed too late for us to make room in today's column. Fortunately, we can offer it here as a column extra for faithful users of this blog:

So.....Don Perata took our $600K? How do I feel about it? Good for him. That's how things get done in politics Jon, in California, in the Federal Government, and everywhere else.


Men are corrupt Jon. And you know that. Bureaucracies are just groups of corrupt men. The state prison is rife with corruption, as is most of California Government. So we have unions in state government for the same reason we have unions in the private sector. To protect workers from corrupt employers, they are a necessary evil. That's all there is to it.

I never promoted within the California System. The perception among many of us is that management promotes, for the most part, their friends and relatives. The current disciplinary matrix is being used as a management tool to run rough shod over line staff, who are seen as a threat by an incompetent, corrupt, prison management in the California system. Unions protect the workers Jon. And it takes money to promote their agenda.


Since I retired from California, I no longer fear repercussions from management like I used to. Prison employees fear their leadership Jon ... another reason we need strong unions.

I don't know where this country and the state of California are headed. As the bureaucracies get larger, the corruption and incompetence seem to increase. It's easy perhaps, to scapegoat unions or state employees, but unions are a reaction to the problem, not the problem itself.


Take care, Jon. This has probably reached you too late to be of any use to your column tomorrow, but feel free to contact me in the future if you like.


Merry Christmas, and may God bless you and your family.

Dave Freeman


December 11, 2008
Column extra: More from Redding and Orange County

As the economy continues hammering California, we've been tracking the interplay between government at all levels and public employee unions around the state to see whether any trends are emerging.

As our column noted today, layoff talk has exposed the limits of union power. Some labor groups have made concessions and others, hoping save jobs and to soften losses to their members, have offered some.

Some updates in the news since yesterday, when we wrote the State Worker column:

From the Redding Record Searchlight:

In a bid to lop $3.1 million, or 4 percent from the city's general fund budget, Redding officials Wednesday proposed laying off 14 employees - including three firefighters. ...

Ian Arnold is a field representative for Service Employees International Union Local 1021 (SEIU), the city's largest union. Arnold said his members could not accept such a major concession if the city could not guarantee the savings would protect jobs and essential public services. But the union is willing to sit down with city negotiators to discuss other ways to save money, he said.

"We are fully aware this is the worst budget crisis that the state of California has faced since the Great Depression, and we are willing to roll up our sleeves to help mitigate the damage," Arnold said.

"But we want to know that if SEIU members come up with $1 million worth of savings, that million would be applied to protecting SEIU jobs," said Arnold. "Members are not willing to sacrifice to protect unrepresented managers."

Click here for the entire story.

Orange County is going ahead with layoffs and furloughs, despite a recent union proposal to take furloughs over the holidays, according to this LA Times story:

Officials in cash-strapped Orange County have ordered the deepest cuts in staffing in years, saying they'll lay off 210 social services workers and force 4,000 other employees to take two weeks off without pay. ...

The planned job reductions in Orange County were announced during a tense meeting of county and union officials Wednesday afternoon in Santa Ana. All of the planned cutbacks were in the Social Services Agency, the result of an expected $20-million reduction in state funding.

...

Enraged union officials suggested that the county look elsewhere to save money, suggesting it cut perks for executives and managers -- including car allowances and enhanced retirement benefits -- before forcing layoffs and unpaid days off.

"If they don't step up and show good faith by taking away those perks, this is going to get very ugly, very fast," said Nick Berardino, general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, the county's largest union.

Last week, concerned about possible layoffs, Berardino proposed that all county employees voluntarily take unpaid leave during the holidays to help avoid job cuts. He said the union would probably file a lawsuit if the county forces workers to take time off without pay.

"The people that are here are crying. The anger level is beyond anything I've ever seen," Berardino said.

You can read the entire LAT piece here.

December 4, 2008
Column extra: A 'rarely mentioned' class in CSLEA

Our State Worker column today prompted this e-mail:

Rarely mentioned in this CSLEA bickering are the state's Emergency Planners and Emergency Managers. In California, our four seasons are officially Fire, Flood, Earthquake, and "to be determined." We put in long hours alongside the emergency personnel that seek to split our union.

First consider the pay ranges for FEMA Emergency Planners:

Emergency Management Program Specialist is 48,108.00 - 107,854.00 a year.

Emergency Response Planner $60,840.00 - $112,735.00 per year

Sr. Technological Hazards Program Specialist $86,715.00 - $112,735.00 per year

Supervisory Emergency Management Program Specialist $82,178.00 - $126,240.00 per year

Now look at what California pays:

EMERGENCY SERVICES COORDINATOR, $44,976 - $65,436 per year

SENIOR EMERGENCY SERVICES COORDINATOR $59,532 - $71,844 per year

Instead of raising the pay for these classes, and using an appropriate classification to supervise (like Senior Emergency Management Coordinator $72,288- $87,312), they use a non-represented class to supervise these planners:

PROGRAM MANAGER I, OFFICE OF EMERGENCY SERVICES $62,460 - $75,444 per year

Oddly enough, few emergency planners are interested in promoting. It's not really a promotion when you give up your overtime and lose union representation. No real incentive to promote.

Please don't use my name in your articles.

The tone of the e-mail left us with the impression that the author was against sworn officers severing ties with CSLEA, but to be sure, we asked. The reply:

I am against the move. I think we will be left behind as yet another obscure group of unknown classes with even less political clout.... Emergency Management is a strange field, as there is no real formal training. If you learn the job and truly become knowledgeable in it, you possess a rare and valuable skill that can be worth over $100 an hour as a consultant. And that is another place we lose our people to. There is plenty of money for consultants, but yet nothing for salaries -- More outsourcing of employee jobs.
November 20, 2008
Column extra, part 2: More about the legislative pay committee

Today's State Worker column has prompted several readers to ask for more details about the California Citizens Compensation Commission, which sets pay rates for the state legislature. You can get more information by clicking here.

November 20, 2008
Column extra: Legislators who didn't take pay raise, per diem hike


Jim Silva.jpgTed Gaines.jpg

With just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that don't make the cut.

In trolling for background on State Legislature pay and per diem this week, we reached out to veteran reporter Jim Sanders of The Bee's Cap Bureau. Jim graciously shared information he recently received from the State Controller's Office:

As of Monday, the Controller had 26 legislators on its list of senators and assemblymembers who refused a 2.75 percent pay hike last December that was approved by an independent citizens commission. The bump added roughly $3,110 to legislators' pay, bringing it to the current $116,208 per year.

Click here to see that list.


Per diem is a different animal. As Jim noted in this Capital Alert post last month, the state Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board recently added $3 to per diem, raising it to $173 retroactive to Oct. 1.

State law requires the three-member board to set per diem no lower than the rate paid to federal employees traveling to Sacramento, currently $173.

Several local lawmakers have refused per diem, since they live close to the Capitol.

The SCO says that it has two letters on file declining the per diem increase: Asssemblyman Jim Silva, R-Huntington Beach, and Roseville Republican Assemblyman Ted Gaines.

To see Silva's letter declining the per diem increase, click here. You can read Gaines' letter by clicking here.

IMAGES: Assemblyman Ted Gaines, left, and Assemblyman Jim Silva; republican.assembly.ca.gov




About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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