The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 3, 2013
Column Extra: California pension-change effort and its Texas tie

131003-john_arnold_ap-2009.jpgOur State Worker column in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's push for a pension-change measure on next year's statewide ballot and how a Texas nonprofit has helped out.

Here's more:

The disclosure form filed by Reed that details the $200,000 behested donation from Action Now Initiative to the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.

An email from the chamber's president and CEO Matt Mahood, sent in response to a telephone call to the organization's spokesman, who was unavailable on Wednesday. (We didn't see the email until this morning.)

Action Now Initiative's Form 990, which nonprofits must file with the IRS. Scroll to the bottom and you'll see that John and Laura Arnold are listed as directors of the organization.

The IRS list of "Approved Tax-Exempt Applications For Advocacy Organizations" as of May 2013. Action Now is fifth on the alphabetized roster.

Laura and John Arnold Foundation website page dated Aug. 12, 2013, titled, "Laura and John Arnold: Let's Prevent Another Detroit." It lays out arguments and ideas that parallel what Reed and like-minded mayors are saying about pensions. (Reed filed his behest disclosure 16 days later.)

An informative, readable explanation of 501(c)(4) organizations by The Washington Post's Sean Sullivan. Includes amusing video from "The Colbert Report."

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.

PHOTO: John Arnold in 2009. Associated Press

August 29, 2013
AUDIO: Embezzler talks about her re-hiring and firing from rail agency

Thumbnail image for NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgOur story in today's Bee explains how changes on state government job applications led to the High Speed Rail Authority hiring a woman who served prison time for embezzling $320,000 from another department.

Rail officials fired Carey Renee Moore for lying on her job application. When the state blocked her from receiving unemployment benefits, she appealed her case before Administrative Law Judge Katie Zwinski on October 3, 2012.

A recording of that 23-minute hearing was among the public records we received in response to requests filed with the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the State Personnel Board. Documents include the unemployment insurance appeal paperwork Moore filed with Zwinski and the High Speed Rail termination notice that went to the Personnel Board when Moore filed -- and then withdrew -- a challenge to her firing.

Here are some audio clips from the hearing attended by Moore and her mother, a long-time state personnel officer. No one from the state attended the hearing to defend Moore's termination.

Moore discusses her 2007 resignation from Board of Equalization.

Moore's take on the political motive for her firing and how changes to the state's job application gave her an opportunity to return to state service.

How Moore handled rail officials' questions about her absence from state service.

Moore explains how she researched the changes to state job applications to make sure she could apply for work without disclosing her criminal history.

Moore describes what she said was her limited access to a high speed rail credit account.

An emotional Moore says her dismissal from the rail agency was "cruel" and "a little bit of a shock."

ILLUSTRATION: Seattle Times/Gabi Campanario

May 20, 2013
From the notebook: Table tallies California managers' dual jobs

Thumbnail image for NOTEBOOK_use_this.jpgAs we reported late last Friday and Saturday, the Brown Administration and the State Personnel Board released their audits of California state managers and supervisors who had a second (and in some cases, a third and a fourth) appointment to hourly-wage jobs in their same departments.

About 85 percent, CalHR said, held secondary positions in violation of state hiring policies and civil service laws that aim to make state jobs subject to a fair and open process.

The remaining 76 of the appointments were appropriate, CalHR investigators said.

What follows is the unedited spreadsheet from CalHR that summarizes its auditors' findings:

March 15, 2013
From the notebook: More about furloughs and leave accruals

130315-Notebook.JPGOur story in today's Bee expands on a new state report that quantifies the long-term impact of furloughs on California state employee leave. We contacted a half-dozen sources for reaction to the legislative analyst's conclusion that the policy will add $1 billion to what the state pays cash out employee leave and that the state should considering setting a hard leave cap and offer to buy down leave balances.

As we reported today, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Resources says Gov. Jerry Brown wants to get the state's estimated $3.9 billion in leave liabilities under control and reform the system. The issue could come up in upcoming contract talks with unions.

Here are some of the quotes from sources that didn't get into the story.

October 22, 2012
From the notebook poll: CCPOA and other state employee unions

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Our story in today's fiber/cyber Sacramento Bee about the shifting strategy of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association came from our observation that as of last week the union hadn't but any money into efforts to defeat Proposition 34, which would repeal California's death penalty, and Proposition 36, which softens the state's three-strikes law.

Subsequent conversations with several sources bolstered our sense that the union has shifted political gears away from influencing public opinion about big issues and expanding spending on prisons. Instead, it's focused on closer-to-ground concerns such as mitigating job losses and preserving members' benefits.

More broadly, when you think about CCPOA and other state public employee unions, how are they faring in these changing fiscal and political times?

September 17, 2012
From the notebook: What California state workers pay in union dues and fees

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Our story in today's fiber/cyber Bee mentions how much state workers paid in union dues and fair share fees for one month, December 2011: roughly $10.5 million.

What follows are three spreadsheets that lay out state workers' dues and fair share payments of that month, built from the state controller's payroll records. The first sheet details the number of employees by bargaining unit and their payments to their unions (it also pulls out numbers for the largest union, SEIU Local 1000). The second focuses on the percentage of dues and fair share fee payers in each unit. The third shows the regular pay and total pay by union.

July 26, 2012
From the notebook: Read the California state scientists' request to retain some student assistants

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Our recent story on student assistants losing their state jobs mentioned that the California Association of Professional Scientists has taken issue with the decision to ax students who work with its members.

The terminations will hit Sept. 1 in keeping with terms reached between Gov. Jerry Brown and SEIU Local 1000. The agreement also says that the state won't hire any more student assistants as long as Local 1000-represented employees are on furlough through June 30, 2013.

Here's a July 12 letter from CAPS President David Miller to the Brown administration that lays out the union's concerns:

David Miller letter to Julie Chapman

July 23, 2012
From the notebook: A student assistant comments on her impending layoff, tuition hikes and job prospects

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in today's Bee takes a closer look at the state's plan to ax hundreds of its student assistants at the end of next month, in keeping with a furlough agreement Gov. Jerry Brown reached with SEIU Local 1000 lastt month.

In the course of reporting, we talked to about a dozen students and corresponded via email with about the same number.

Here's one of those emails from Sacramento State student Heidi Temple. We're posting her words here unedited and with her permission. She was speaking for herself, not her colleagues, supervisors or her employer:

June 13, 2012
From the notebook: Read the 'lost' passages from California retired annuitants story

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Today's story about the costs and politics of how the state uses retired annuitants in today's Bee is the product of two days of number-crunching and interviews, most of which didn't see print.

That's often the case when reporting complex stories. Reporters and editors sift through what's known and written, making dozens of decisions about what to leave in and what to take out.

We made a decision to take out the following paragraphs from today's piece, concluding that they were probably number-heavy details that general readers either wouldn't easily follow or care about.

State Worker blog users, however, tend to be more knowledgeable about the fine details of state government and the bureaucracy. So rather deleting these paragraphs forever, we thought they would make for good blog item:

... Some agencies relied relatively little on retirees. The California Department of Transportation, the Highway Patrol and the State Compensation Insurance Fund spent less than 0.1 percent of total payroll last year on retired annuitants.

Others relied more on them. The departments of Mental Health, Water Resources and Social Services all spent at least 1.4 percent of their payroll on retired annuitants - twice the statewide average.

Among moderately-sized agencies, Department of Community Services and Development spent about 12 percent of its payroll on 42 retired annuitants in calendar 2011, 17 times the state average and the highest rate of any department.

Spokeswoman Rachel Arrezola attributed that to heavy workloads triggered by federal monitoring standards for how the department is spending $275 million in Recovery Act money received a few years ago.

"Given the increased federal requirements, CSD needed temporary support to meet the temporary workload," Arrezola said.

Before that, the department employed just 13 retirees and currently has 27, about one-third the number of its regular state-employee staff.

"Our Recovery Act program will wrap up in December," Arrezola said. "We'll reduce the department's temporary support accordingly."

RELATED POST:
Audit: State could lose $93 million in Recovery Act money

May 15, 2012
From the notebook: More reactions to Jerry Brown's California workweek plan

Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in today's Bee looks at Gov. Jerry Brown's prosposal to cut $401 million in general fund employee costs ($839 million all funds) by putting state employees on a 4/9.5 weekly furlough schedule.

We inerviewed several folks who didn't get into the final version of our story, including Bruce Blanning, executive director of the state's engineers' union and Tim Yeung, a Sacramento-based labor attorney.

Here are some highlights of our discussions with both men:

April 9, 2012
Poll: Why has hiring dropped off under Jerry Brown's watch?

As our story in today's Bee notes, state hiring fell 25 percent during the first year of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's administration when compared with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's last year in office.

But how much is Brown responsible? After all, the state still added more than 10,000 new full- and part-time employees in the first 14 months of his comeback third term. How much of the difference in numbers is a difference in leadership style, administrative savvy, political experience or bureaucratic cooperation?

Is is possible, for example, that Schwarzenegger's tough-on-state-workers policies (furloughs, attempts to withhold wages during budget stalemates, the campaign to roll back public pensions) prodded so many civil servants into retirement that his administration wound up hiring more than Brown?

Or has Brown, drawing on his many years in the public sector including two terms as governor from 1975 to 1983, simply done a better job of managing the state deficit -- and gained the bureaucracy's support to slow hiring in the process?

On The State Worker's Facebook page, retired state worker Mike Carbahal gave this opinion: "Schwarzenegger did not know what he was doing, nobody paid him or his programs much if any attention - Brown on the other hand does know what he is doing and is taken very seriously."

What do you think?

April 9, 2012
From the notebook: California's government hiring trends under Jerry Brown

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Our report in today's Bee looks at how many first-time state workers the state has hired during Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's return to the executive branch. We also compare those figures with how many workers the state hired during GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's final year.

What follows are hiring tallies by job class and department from data provided to us by the State Controller's Office. The numbers show how many individuals were hired from January 2011 through last February, two more months than the hiring tables published with today's report:

March 19, 2012
From the notebook: A closer look at California state government jobs

Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpg
We never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in today's Bee looks at which state jobs are drawing the most applicants from outside government and why, using data compiled by the State Personnel Board, which administers eligibility examinations for state civil service positions.

Below you'll find the list of all 1,390 jobs for which at least one applicant was deemed eligible when SPB made its first data run for our story on Mar. 2. This is not a help-wanted list, but an accounting of how many people have been deemed eligible for consideration when a job on the list opens.

Want more details? Check out the state's one-stop, everything-you-need-to-know website, www.jobs.ca.gov, where you can put a job title in a search engine and then click through to find out about pay ranges, tests, duties and minimum qualifications.

The state also keeps job eligibility lists totals online. Click here to look up the info, which can be sorted by job class and department. The figures are updated daily.

December 22, 2011
Column Extra: Social Security tax hike on state paychecks

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 Bee explains why, even if Congress extends the lower 4.2 percent Social Security tax rate set to expire this month, that the higher 6.2 percent rate will show up on state workers' Jan. 1 paychecks.

Here's the letter from the State Controller's Office that explains the situation to all departments and universities who run their payroll through the SCO:

December 21, 2011
From the notebook: Read a California Lottery resignation letter

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in today's Bee about Gov. Jerry Brown's appointment to the California Lottery's top job -- and other key positions that remain unfilled -- mentions that Commissioner Alex Fortunati resigned, effective immediately, on Dec. 8. Brown's Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, appointed Fortunati at the end of 2010.

Brown must fill the vacant spot and the other two termed-out seats on the commission by early next month.

Here's Fortunati's resignation letter:

111220 Fortunati letter.JPG

November 17, 2011
From the notebook: Privatizing California's infrastructure

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Bay Bridge construction inspection controversy from the perspective of the ongoing debate between labor and business over public-private partnerships.

Here are some of the documents and websites that informed the column:

November 12, 2011
From the notebook: The Justice Department cuts

Thumbnail image for 111111 axe.jpgWe never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our report in today's Bee looks at the politics behind specifically mandated Department of Justice budget cuts that, if not reversed, will wind up axing 170 special agent jobs and another 30 support staff. Here's a checklist of source documents and websites that informed the story:

July 12, 2011
From the notebook: What's up with local government pensions?

Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpg
We never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in today's Bee touches on pension changes around the nation and at the state and local government level in California.

Here's a table that shows pension reworkings instituted or proposed in cities and counties around the Golden State as of July 4. CalPERS did the research.
California local government pension changes (as of July 4, 2011)

May 31, 2011
From the notebook: Patrol and correctional pay nationwide

We never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users data, notes and quotes from the notebook that informed what we published.

Our story in today's cyber/fiber Bee looks at the long-running competition between California's correctional officers and Highway Patrol officers for pay and respect. The story includes a chart that shows the current pay ranges for each occupation.

Several readers have called and e-mailed with the same question this morning: How much do people in other states earn for similar work?

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks that data, although it lumps local jobs with state jobs. The patrol class is part of police and sheriff's data. Correctional officers are grouped with local jailers. 

Depending on your point of view, it's a helpful comparison or an overbroad survey that fails to take into account factors such as California's relatively higher cost of living.

Here are a couple of BLS data tables that capture May 2010 pay, the most current information available. Clicking the links opens more tables and maps, on everything from metro area statistics to the national mean and median wages for each job group.

Top paying states for correctional officers and jailers:

State Employment Employment per thousand jobs Location quotient Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
New Jersey 11,340 3.01 0.84 $32.01 $66,590
California 44,120 3.15 0.88 $31.49 $65,500
New York 34,310 4.11 1.14 $27.15 $56,480

Nevada

2,760 2.48 0.69 $26.81 $55,760
Illinois 11,990 2.17 0.60 $24.86 $51,700

Top-paying states for police and sheriff's patrol officers:

State Employment Employment per thousand jobs Location quotient Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage 
New Jersey 22,830 6.06 1.20 $38.13 $79,300
California 75,730 5.41 1.07 $37.16 $77,290
District of Columbia NA NA NA $32.48 $67,560
Illinois 30,110 5.45 1.07 $32.06 $66,680
Nevada 4,790 4.30 0.85 $31.66 $65,840


May 17, 2011
From the notebook: Where Brown's budget cuts state jobs

Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpg
We never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the data, the notes and the quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in today's Bee looked at what Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget cuts mean for state employees, and Sacramento in particular. As we were casting our net for information on Monday, we asked Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer for a breakdown of the roughly 5,500 jobs that would go away under the proposal.

Here's what he sent our way:

May 1, 2011
From the notebook: CalPERS board's pay reimbursement

We never can get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Our profile of CalPERS Board of Adminstration member J.J. Jelincic in today's cyber and fiber Bee mentions that as of July 1 he will be released from his job as a CalPERS investment officer to attend to board business full time.

CalPERS rules require that "elected Board members obtain the approval from the Board for the percentage of time the Board member will spend fulfilling his or her duties in the next fiscal year" before they can spend their normal work time on fund business and have their employer reimbursed, an April 12 memo to the board notes.

Four members filled out forms that estimate the percent of their normal work time will be spent on fund business: Jelincic, Priya Mathur, George Diehr and Rob Feckner. The board's Benefits and Program Administration Committee approved all four requests during its April meeting.

Members whose wages are reimbursed have to submit quarterly reports that show how the time was used for CalPERS business before the fund will pay back their employers. You can read the policy in excruciating detail by clicking here. Or not.

Here are the forms filled out by the four board members for next year:

April 13, 2011
From the notebook: The BOE office documents (part 2)

We never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the notes and quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in Tuesday's Bee looked at recent office moves planned by Board of Equalization members Jerome Horton and George Runner. Horton's intended move from the 9th floor of the U.S. Bank Tower to the same building's 25th story didn't happen. Runner's move from the Wells Fargo Center to the Bank of the West Tower is still on after he whacked the board's improvement costs in half.

After you've read the story for context, check out these documents for more details about Runner's move:

The Feb. 24 estimates of tenant improvement costs beyond what the landlord would cover for the 17th floor of the Bank of the West Tower.

The Nov. 4 letter from the BOE's Christine Demes to James Koerner at DGS to arrange a tour of 500 Capitol Mall for Runner and asking that the former senator not pay for parking when he arrives there.

A Dec. 3 letter from Demes to Koerner about cutting costs by moving desks from other parts of 500 Capitol Mall instead of having desks built.

A Mar. 8 revision of tenant improvement costs. (Runner has since cut another $14,000.)

The unexecuted lease agreement for 500 Capitol Mall.

April 12, 2011
From the notebook: The BOE office documents (part 1)

Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the notes and quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in today's Bee looks at recent office moves planned by Board of Equalization members Jerome Horton and George Runner. Horton's intended move from the 9th floor of the U.S. Bank Tower to a top spot on the same building's 25th story is dead. Runner's move from the Wells Fargo Center to the Bank of the West Tower is on, after he cut costs and spread payments for part of the upgrades over four years of the eight-year lease.

After you've read the story for context, check out these documents for more details about the Horton plan:

Building improvement costs for the 25th floor of the U.S. Bank Tower

The Feb. 24 e-mail from Patti Joseph, DGS' Sacramento leasing manager, raising questions about the cost of the office space improvements. Includes Feb. 28 response from Liz Houser, BOE deputy director of administration that costs are reasonable and the improvements are "necessary for program operations."

The Mar. 10 e-mail from Houser that says the improvement costs are "not acceptable."

The unexecuted lease that the state declined to sign for the top floor space at U.S. Bank Tower.

We'll post some Runner documents later.

April 1, 2011
From the notebook: Two responses to Brown's pension plan

Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgEditor's note, 1:54 p.m.: An earlier version of this post published the wrong response from Californians for Health Care and Retirement Security.

We never get all of what we learn into a news story, but this blog can give users the notes and quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Our story in today's Bee samples reaction and analysis from several different sources about Gov. Jerry Brown's pension plan. Here are two press releases with different takes on his proposal:

***Media Release***
By Dave Low, Chairman of Californians for Health Care and Retirement Security

Californians for Health Care and Retirement Security Assail Brown's Pension Proposals
April 01, 2011 @ 9:45 AM
California's public employees agreed in good faith to significant concessions at the bargaining table that have saved state government hundreds of millions of dollars. We have marched side by side with lawmakers to try to help repair an economy crippled by Wall Street greed. We have made concession after concession - from slashed paychecks disguised as furlough days to uncertainty in the form of pink slips delivered to those who teach our children. A bipartisan agreement on pensions last year saved state government $400 million. Hundreds of local governments already have reduced pensions for new hires through collective bargaining.

Now, Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing that we agree to more cuts. These unilateral changes fly in the face of collective bargaining law and amount to a breach of agreements that state government has made with millions of workers in California. California's policymakers need to take a careful look at the billions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthy in our state budget before they launch an assault on California's middle class. It is time for our elected officials to start standing up to corporate interests and right-wing factions who are part of a national attack on public workers and their retirement security.

We have been steadfast in our support of changes to clamp down on egregious abuses of the pension system that are the exception. The average public pension in California is $26,000 a year. Half of CalPERS retirees receive $18,000 per year or less. Given the facts, Californians will not tolerate policymakers who do not keep their word to the people working in the trenches to serve, protect and teach our families

Californians for Health Care and Retirement Security is a coalition of 1.5 million public employees and retirees.


From Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton:

March 25, 2011
From the notebook : A change to CCPOA's tentative agreement

Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.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 and the observations that don't make the cut.

This week's column quotes Department of Personnel Administration Director Ron Yank, the man Gov. Jerry Brown assigned to negotiate contracts with the last six state employee unions without deals. His comments in the column were part of a 90-minute lunch at a restaurant around the corner from DPA's S Street offices.

This report started with that conversation. CCPOA hasn't yet returned an e-mail seeking comment.

The state is ending contributions to a retirement fund for Bargaining Unit 6 employees, according to state officials, in exchange for a higher deferred pay raise and to maintain the current leave system for the 32,000 or so correctional and parole officers represented by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.

Our earlier report, based on a letter to members by union Executive Vice President Chuck Alexander, said that the program, called POFF II (Peace Officer and Firefighter) would be temporarily suspended to help offset the state's cost to bring CCPOA members' health coverage even with the rest of the state work force. State payments into the fund -- an employer contribution equal to 2 percent of base salary -- were to resume in January 2014.

Employees have paid nothing into POFF II, which was established in fiscal 1998-99 as a capped supplement to union members' regular CalPERS pension. CCPOA was the only state union that negotiated the benefit for members. As of January 31, the plan had nearly 40,000 participants and $79 million in assets, according to CalPERS.

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 4, 2011
From the notebook: More about bargaining, furloughs

We never get all of what we learn into a news story like today's report that six employee groups that have resumed the court fight against furloughs -- and this time Gov. Jerry Brown is the defendant. Fortunately, this blog can give users the notes and quotes from the notebook that informed what was published.

Thumbnail image for 110105 Ron Yank.JPGWe spoke with DPA Director Ron Yank on Thursday about the renewed furlough litigation now in Alameda Superior Court. When we finished talking about the lawsuit for purposes of the story, Yank said that he wanted to discuss two other issues: a much-noted statement he made Wednesday during a joint legislative committee hearing and challenges that the uneven application of furloughs have created at the bargaining table.

Here are some highlights:

February 5, 2011
From the notebook: More about DMV's request for free service

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Our story in The Bee today dissects a recent DMV "request for quotation" from companies interested in performing -- for free -- a system security check for the department.

Here's more about some of the people and companies mentioned in the story, plus documents that informed our reporting:

DMV's Request For Quotation #EXE10-0024, which sought to "to acquire a Contractor to perform a no-fee security risk assessment of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) current security operations processes."

Here are the questions raised by potential bidders about the RFQ for a freebie and the state's answers (click on it for a larger image):

RFQ QA.jpg

Clicking here opens the homepage for A Martin Inc./WebEnforce, the San Ramone firm that literally couldn't give its service away to DMV.

Here's DMV's rejection letter to WebEnforce.

Clicking here opens IT expert Michael Krigsman's IT blog on ZDNet. This link opens the homepage of Krigsman's IT consulting firm in Brookline, Mass., Asuret.

And here are two earlier State Worker posts about Krigsman's assessment of success claims by the Office of the Chief Information Officer (now the dubbed the California Technology Agency) and his subsequent reassessment.

IMAGE: www.freeclipart.com

January 21, 2011
From the notebook: Budget shows cut to state work force

Thumbnail image for notebook.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Our story in today's Bee looks at what Gov. Jerry Brown's budget says -- and doesn't say -- about the size of the state work force next year.

Here's information from his state budget proposal that lays out the number of workers the state will employ in 2011-12, translated into "personnel years," and what it will cost to compensate them. (Click on the table to see a larger version.)

2011-12 Schedule 4.jpg

You'll find the data above on PDF page 194 in Brown's budget 266-page budget summary, which you can download here. The numbers in the executive section of the table represent employees under gubernatorial authority. The figures include State Fund, CalPERS, CalSTRS and a few other quasi-autonomous groups, but you get the idea.

IMAGE: www.freeclipart.com

November 6, 2010
From the notebook: The prison medical receiver documents

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpg"From the notebook" posts give State Worker blog users some of the details and documents behind the news.

Our story in today's Bee looks at the deal worked out to allow federally appointed prison medical receiver J. Clark Kelso to keep his state employee status while working at the pleasure of U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson.

The story explains how Kelso is a consultant to the Administrative Office of the Courts for payroll purposes. The arrangement allows him to maintain independence from the executive and legislative branches of government -- key to his role as the federal appointee tasked with reforming the state's prison medical system -- while continuing his membership in CalPERS as a state employee.

Click here to read several documents that informed this story, including the receiver's employment agreement between the Administrative Office of the Courts and the nonprofit California Prison Health Care Receivership Corp., Henderson's order appointing Kelso as the receiver, Kelso's biography and two letters from Henderson to the AOC about the deal.

One of Kelso's former employees, Linda Buzzini, asked CalPERS to count her employment as a receivership staff attorney toward her CalPERS pension. The fund denied her request. This link downloads CalPERS' 10-page response, which was copied to Kelso and CalPERS CEO Anne Stausboll.

September 10, 2010
From the notebook: Roussos analyzes Supreme Court hearing

"From the notebook" posts give State Worker blog users insights, notes and quotes that went into news stories that we write.

We quoted Athena Roussos, an Elk Grove-based appellate attorney who has argued before the California Supreme Court, in this story about the California Supreme Court hearing in the PECG v. Schwarzenegger furlough case.

Roussos said plenty more about the hearing when we spoke on Wednesday afternoon. Here are some of her thoughts after viewing the oral arguments:

September 1, 2010
From the notebook: More about state employee suicide

Much of what we learn as we report news stories about state work force issues never sees print. From the notebook blog posts give you notes, quotes and details that inform the writing.

Last week's story on the increase in workplace crisis counseling triggered by state employees' suicides prompted hundreds of online comments, about 150 e-mails and many telephone calls. Some blasted the piece for failing to get more specific about state employees who died by suicide. Those critics felt that the story was soft and missed a chance to have greater impact.

Many more readers said in e-mails and phone calls that they felt that the piece aimed to cast state employees in a sympathetic light. Here's an example of an online comment leveling that charge:

If you compared the private sector to government work force I bet you would find the numbers 10 times more, but of course the Sacbee didn't want to mention that fact and instead is pushing an agenda again.

Early drafts of the story contained state and national data, but the information lags by up to three years. Using those figures for context isn't very useful. Still, in the interest of giving readers of this blog extra info that informs the stories that we write, here are two tables that reveal state and national suicide data for residents over age 18:

May 21, 2010
From the notebook: What the Supreme Court's furlough review decision means

As we've reported in today's Bee, the state Supreme Court is going to review CASE v. Schwarzenegger, the lawsuit that successfully argued furloughing legal staff at State Compensation Insurance Fund violated California insurance code. California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment also won the governor's subsequent appeal of the lower court decision, making it the only furlough lawsuit so far with an appellate court ruling.

The State Worker has fielded dozens of calls and e-mails from readers with questions about the court's action. Here are some answers:

April 23, 2010
From the notebook: Local 1000's Walker on court's furlough decision

April 24 Editor's note: This item was erroneously posted with an April 22 date stamp. We have changed the date of the post to reflect when it was actually posted, April 23.

Thumbnail image for notebook.jpg"From the notebook" posts give State Worker blog users some of the extra details behind the news.

After we filed today's print and online story about the state Supreme Court turning down Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's request to consolidate several key furlough cases, we received this e-mailed statement from SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker late Thursday:

Unfortunately, today's Supreme Court decision only prolongs a policy that is harmful to state employees, our families, our communities and the state of California," Walker said. "It never should have come to this - we signed a contract that would have saved the state more than $350 million, but he chose to disregard it and illegally implement furloughs.

Local 1000 did not initiate the consolidation of these cases, but we chose to support this action in the hopes of a speedier end to illegal furloughs. We will continue to aggressively litigate the illegal furloughs in all courts until all state workers are made whole.

IMAGE: www.freeclipart.com

March 31, 2010
From the notebook: Local 1000 addresses Tuesday furlough stay

Thumbnail image for notebook.jpgFrom the notebook posts give State Worker blog users insights, notes and quotes that went into news stories that we write.

Our story in today's Bee looks at the temporary stay issued on Tuesday by the 1st District Court of Appeal in response to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's writ of supercedeas.

We had asked SEIU Local 1000 for comment, but we filed our story before receiving this e-mailed response to our request from union spokesman Jim Zamora:

The state Court of Appeal has temporarily blocked an Alameda Superior Court judge's order sending non-General Fund state employees back to work. That means that Local 1000-represented employees should observe Friday, April 2 as a furlough day.

SEIU Local 1000 Attorney Felix De La Torre pointed out that the court's decision to re-impose the stay is not based on the merits of either side's arguments.

"The stay was granted strictly to preserve the status quo until the court can decide whether to lift the furloughs while the appeal is being decided," De La Torre said. "It says nothing about the merits of the appeal. It is a precautionary action to give the justices time to make a decision."

SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker said the Tuesday's court action was just another step in a long battle.

"We will continue to aggressively fight these furloughs - which have already been found illegal by a trial court - until our workers are back at their jobs and receiving full pay."

IMAGE: www.freeclipart.com

March 24, 2010
Read Roesch's final furlough stay order

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Gavel.jpgClick here to read Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch's "Order Granting in Part Motion for Relief From Automatic Stay," which the judge signed today. It's essentially the same as his earlier tentative ruling.

IMAGE: www.yolocourts.ca.gov

March 19, 2010
Ending furloughs would bust Caltrans' budget, chief deputy says

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 081212 caltrans_logo.gifCaltrans Chief Deputy Director Cindy McKim says in a declaration filed in Alameda Superior Court that if the department is forced to end furloughs and repay lost wages, it "would be required to immediately, and drastically reduce expenditures," including layoffs.

McKim's four-page statement, filed Mar. 12, is part of the documentation compiled ahead of Wednesday's hearing before Judge Frank Roesch. Lawyers at the hearing will debate whether to lift the automatic stay triggered by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's appeal of the judge's order to end furloughs and issue back pay to tens of thousands of state workers.

Based on McKim's declaration, the governor's side is framing Roesch's choices as letting the furlough status quo continue for a few more months (even though the judge has ruled that the policy is illegal) or ending furloughs and sending state workers to the unemployment line.

Click the following link for more details about McKim's declaration and a link to the court file.

After laying out some payroll numbers, McKim says, "In the event that the Department of Transportation was required, as of this date, to cease the implementation of three furlough days per month for all employees, the Department of Transportation's financial expenditures would exceed its available funds."

Bottom line, according to McKim:

The payment of backpay will exhaust all amounts allocated for employee compensation; accordingly DOT will run out of money for the payment of salary prior to the end of the fiscal year. In order to make a recovery from the impact, the Department's long term plan would be to reduce expenditures by slowing down project delivery which would result in eliminating staff, possibly through a layoff.

Click here to download McKim's declaration.

Hat tip to blog user J for flagging this document.

March 19, 2010
From the notebook: Read Iwasaki's resignation letter

We can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

This blog reported on Thursday that Caltrans Director Randell Iwasaki has resigned his post, effective April 15. (The Bee also ran a short story in today's print and online editions.)

We have Iwasaki's resignation letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Click here to read it.

February 26, 2010
From the notebook: Read the Alameda furlough documents

Thumbnail image for notebook.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you some of the extra details behind the news.

Our story in today's Sacramento Bee explains Thursday afternoon's order by Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch to immediately end furloughs for all employees in non-general fund departments, regardless of union affiliation, and pay them for wages lost because of the controversial 13-month-old policy.

Look for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to appeal the decision today or early next week. That will keep the policy in place and delay back pay unless union attorneys can successfully argue that the order should be implemented, regardless.

You can read Roesch's "Judgment for Petitioner" by clicking here. Read his "Order After Hearing" by clicking here.

Calfornia Attorneys, Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment sent an e-mail to members Thursday night after news of Roesch's judgment broke. This link opens the CASE memo.

IMAGE: www.freeclipart.com

January 28, 2010
From the notebook: Public pension poll results

notebook.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story. "From the notebook" posts give you the notes, quotes, details and documents that inform what we write.

Our A1 story in today's Bee zeroes in on some key aspects of the LAO analysis of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's employee compensation proposals for the 2010-11 budget. It mentions a PPIC poll released today that shows three-fourths of likely voters in California view state and local pension costs as a problem. Click here to download the poll. The questions about pensions are on page 22.

IMAGE: www.freeclipart.com

January 22, 2010
From the notebook: Law professor talks about furlough cases

notebook.jpgWe can never get everything we learn into a news story or State Worker column. "From the notebook" posts give you the notes, quotes, details and documents that inform what we write.

Our story in today's Bee notes that Thursday's furlough lawsuit decision in favor of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to contradict three rulings against the governor made by an Alameda County court last month.

So what now? We asked UC Davis law professor Vikram Amar that question and several others in a brief telephone interview on Thursday afternoon. Two quotes got into the story. Here's the rest of our conversation.

Click the following link to read The State Worker Q & A with Amar.

December 18, 2009
From the notebook: More about furlough lawsuits

notebook.jpgOur story in today's Bee looks at Thursday's decision by Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch that "self-directed furloughs" for state correctional officers violate the law.

As usual with these kinds of complicated stories, the dictates of time and space forced choices about what to leave in and what to take out. But State Worker blog users get those notes, quotes and observations from the notebook.

We made passing reference in today's report to federal furlough litigation filed by CCPOA this week. The class-action lawsuit argues that self-directed furloughs violate the Fair Labor Standards Act because:

  • Employees aren't paid for all work performed within the pay period.
  • Time worked on a furlough day isn't calculated toward overtime.
  • The state has failed to keep adequate payroll records.

You can read the 8-page court filing, courtesy of Courthouse News, by clicking here

Read more about the CalPERS furlough suit by clicking the following link

December 5, 2009
From the notebook: Read FTB's request for furlough exemption

We can never get everything we learn into a news story or State Worker column. "From the notebook" posts give you the notes, quotes, details and documents that inform what we write.

Today's story in the fiber/cyber Bee looks at the Franchise Tax Board's "Budget Change Proposal" for a furlough exemption in 2010-11.

Some caveats: FTB says it's planning, just in case. A judge could overturn Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's furlough policy. (Click here to read about the Nov. 16 hearings in Alameda Superior Court.). Or the state's economy could rebound and abate the need for budget cuts. (Highly unlikely, as we noted in this recent column.)

Click this link to read the draft of FTB's 9-page proposal, which lays out the rationale for the board's exemption request. The board approved the proposal at its Thursday meeting. Click here to view the FTB's agenda that day.

November 20, 2009
From the notebook: More from Monday's furlough hearing, part 4

This is the fourth and final installment in our mini-series on Monday's furlough hearings in Alameda Superior Court, presided by Judge Frank Roesch. Click the following links if you need to catch up:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

And you can click here to view the most recent Furlough Fights spreadsheet, which details all 23 furlough lawsuits.

The pace of the hearings has quickened. Roesch has told attorneys to avoid retreading ground covered in earlier arguments, and assures them that he'll consider all the points made as he decides each case. Now it's Felix De La Torre's turn to take a swing at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's furlough policy on behalf of SEIU Local 1000.

Other lawyers have argued that the administration should have analyzed, department-by-department, the impact of furloughs before the governor issued his executive order, in keeping with Government Code 19851. De La Torre raises the legal bar higher:

"The governor not only to has to show it doesn't hurt (departments)," he says. "He has to show it does something for them."

Instead, the policy takes a shortcut. "(Schwarzenegger) wanted the most efficient, easiest route," De La Torre says.

November 19, 2009
From the notebook: More from Monday's furlough hearing, part 3

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Gavel.jpgThis is the third installment in our blog mini-series about what happened on Monday in Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch's courtroom as lawyers debated state worker furloughs. Click here to read part 1. This link will open part 2.

And you can click here to view the most recent Furlough Fights spreadsheet, which details all 23 furlough lawsuits, including the four cases argued on Monday.

Until now, union attorneys and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's lawyers have done all of the talking. But now it's Harvey Liederman's turn to speak.

A tall and trim man in a navy blue suit, he's representing CalPERS and CalSTRS.

Liederman starts by rebuffing the assertion made by the governor's attorneys that Schwarzenegger's furlough order is an exercise of executive authority that the court shouldn't review. "Courts do it all the time," he says.

Then he picks up on the argument started by CASE attorney Patrick Whalen: Employees whose pay comes from special funds shouldn't be subject to furloughs.

Click the following link to read more.

November 17, 2009
From the notebook: Monday's furlough hearing, part 1

Thumbnail image for 100602 yolo county gavel.jpgWe never get all of what we learn into a news story like today's piece on Monday's furlough court hearings. Fortunately, this blog can give users items of interest from the notebook.

The court hearing is in Alameda Superior Court's Department 31, a 30-foot by 40-foot room up one flight of marble steps above the Post Office on 13th and Jackson streets in Oakland.

There's no jury or witness box in the cramped room and less than 30 seats for observers. About 50 people are packed into the space when I arrive at 9:05. By the suits they're wearing, I assume most are lawyers. A few SEIU workers have come out in their purple shirts. It looks like I'm the only journalist. I stand for all the hearings; there's no place to sit.

A court clerk enters the stuffy, stuffed room with a stack of documents that looks about 3 feet high and balances them on the bench. Judge Frank Roesch enters a few minutes later. He's wearing rimless glasses and has a salt-and-pepper goatee. He's self-effacing: As the audience starts to stand, he chuckles and motions everyone to stay seated.

Roesch quickly moves through four or five cases. One woman finds out that her check will be garnished $80 per month to pay a $3,500 debt. A couple of litigants are no shows. The 3-foot stack loses six inches.

Then the judge calls out CCPOA's attorneys and Schwarzenegger's lawyers. It's 9:45 a.m.

October 13, 2009
From the notebook: State workers talk about Columbus Day

Editor's note: A quote attributed to Rosemary Youngblood that she went in to work has been removed. Youngblood took a leave day off with management approval on Columbus Day.

Much of our reporting doesn't get into news stories that we write due to space limits of the fiber edition of The Bee. But State Worker blog users get insights, quotes and information from the notebook that inform the writing.

For our story on yesterday's Columbus Day action, we talked by phone to a half dozen state workers from all over the state and visited with others at a union grievance booth near the Capitol. We appreciated their on-the-record candor and regretted that we couldn't put more of their observations into the story.

Here's some of what they said:

Rose Youngblood, CDCR program technician in San Bernardino:

Most of the people here showed up for work. We got memos from management that threatened we'd be AWOL if we took the day off. I'd rather cover my butt and then worry about getting the time and money back. (She took a leave day with management persmission.)

SEIU? I don't believe a word they say, but they've got valid points on this one. Taking away Columbus Day is a violation of the Dills Act. (The union) is trying to make a statement, but this isn't the way to do it.

Angela Ramirez, works at the DMV office on Broadway and 24th St. in Sacramento:

I stayed home today. I'm hearing that some some offices are half-staffed. Phone units are about half-staffed.

Some people showed up. We saw a lot of intimidation, stuff like branch chiefs showing up to staff meetings and talking about the holiday. They said you could be fired if you took it off. That scared people.

I told my manager ahead of time that I was exercising my right to the holiday. I felt pretty strongly about this.

Alex Hommes, EDD claims adjudication office in Anaheim:

It's business as usual here, just the usual number of sick calls on a Monday. It looks like staffing may be down 2 percent if you're lucky.

I'm puzzled by both sides of this argument. The state has no legal footing. It's dumb and eventually taxpayers will get the bill for this. I really expected the state to back down.

But I'm surprised that Local 1000 would do this, too. They know many people are hurting from furloughs. It's like (the union) is calling a bluff and they don't have anything in their hand.

Frank Sullivan, associate program analyst at Health Care Services in Sacramento:

I'm here, but I've just filled out the grievance form. I've been with the state for 17 years, and this is the worst I've ever seen things, by far. We're supposed to be working under the terms of our past contract.

(The union) negotiated that we'd give up two holidays in exchange for two personal holidays. We got duped. (Schwarzenegger) took them and gave nothing. Negotiations are supposed to be give and take. He just keeps taking.

June 28, 2009
From the notebook: More about the administration and CCPOA

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Gavel.jpgBlog posts from the notebook give you insights, notes and quotes that inform news stories that we write.

Our story in today's fiber and cyber Bee looks at the history of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association and whether its influence is a casualty of the state's threadbare economy.

Here are some of the documents and research that informed our writing:

The Mediation Impasse Request
The state's account of events leading up to the imposition of the last, best and final offer. Includes transcripts from bargaining, correspondence and more. 77 pages.

CCPOA v. State of California
The 2007 court ruling that the state didn't breach an oral contract with the union. 12 pages.

CCPOA / DPA letters
Correspondence between the union and the Department of Personnel Administration about furloughs. 11 pages.

Kurt Stoezl, Elvira Harris, Bruce Cook and Randy Stroud v. CDCR, etc.
The union's "donning and doffing" lawsuit.17 pages.

CCPOA v. State of California
The opening brief of CCPOA's "donning and doffing" appeal. 42 pages.

"The Status of Donning & Doffing Cases For California Peace Officers"
A summary of donning and doffing cases written by attorney Gary G. Goyette. Four pages.

Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2008 / 33-3012 Correctional Officers and Jailers
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' annual survey, which was updated last month.

Inmate Incidents in Institutions
Corrections and Rehabilitation's 2006 report on inmate crimes. PDF pages 6 and 7 have the assault and battery figures. 20 pages.

Employees Killed by Inmates
A list of CDCR staff murdered by inmates from 1952 through 2008. Three pages.

IMAGE: www.yolocourts.ca.gov

June 9, 2009
From the notebook: More about vendor contracts

A few bits of info that didn't get into today's story about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger tightening down on state vendor contracts:

-- Professional Engineers in California Government, which represents the state's unionized engineers at CalTrans and elsewhere, issued a statement supporting the governor's order. Click here to read it.

-- The Department of General Services told us that departments have entered a little more than 12,400 contracts into the system since March 16.

-- There's a huge discrepancy between what the state's estimate of what government spends on vendor contracts and what SEIU Local 1000 researchers have found. Here's a little more detail:

As mentioned in today's story, the State and Consumer Services Agency, figures about $9 billion per year go to vendor contracts. It arrived at that figure by averaging vendor contract payouts since 2005-06 through 2007-08, agency spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said Monday afternoon. Fiscal 2007-08 was the peak year for such spending, roughly $14 billion.

SEIU disputes those figures. It recently released a report that claims the state is currently spending $34 billion on vendor contracts. You can see the report by clicking here.

April 9, 2009
From the notebook: Constitutional furlough fight edition

Our State Worker column in today's fiber and cyber Bee highlights the next round of constitutional court fighting that's coming soon.

Here are a few notes from a telephone interview with Tom Dresslar, spokesman for Treasurer Bill Lockyer that helped inform what we wrote:

On furlough policy since Judge Patrick Marlette's ruling: We're status quo here. The Superior Court didn't officially enter its judgment until Friday. We're going to be appealing. As soon as we file that appeal, the court order will be stayed unless the administration gets some sort of extraordinary relief. Obviously we believe the Superior Court got it wrong. We're confident that we'll prevail on appeal.

On the pending SEIU Local 1000 agreement: On the legislative front, we've always said that we would implement a collectively bargained agreement. The Legislature still hasn't passed the agreement. We're still waiting for that.

On how the nearly 5 percent cut to the department's staffing budget will affect employees starting July 1: It's too early to share publicly how we would implement the budget cut.

On Schwarzenegger's relationship with his constitutional officer peers: The governor needs a constitutional amendment to force furloughs down the throats of constitutional officers. He's made it clear in the past that he views us as pests that get in the way of his agenda. If he wants to completely subjugate independently elected constitutional officers to his will, he'll need to convince the people of California to go along.

January 23, 2009
From the notebook: Scenes from a rally

090123 JV SEIU RALLY 02.JPG

We spent an hour at today's chilly noon SEIU rally on the Capitol's south steps. It looked to us like well over a thousand state workers, some with their kids, showed up for the event despite the cold weather. Here's a little of what we jotted in our notebook:

Several people using walkers and wheelchairs. Shouldn't they be inside?
Signs:

Fix the budget NOW!!
My landlord doesn't take IOU's!
I care about our seniors!
Cuts hurt our kids!
Have a heart -- new revenue is a start

Chants:

"No more cuts!"
"Fired up, can't stand it no more!"
"Back to Hollywood!"


Yvonne Walker (president SEIU Local 1000) to the crowd: "The governor is into creating political theater, not political solutions!"

Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of SEIU International (when we asked what he would tell a discouraged state worker not at the rally): "Don't despair -- organize!"
rally speakers included:
  • a retiree
  • two union executives (Walker and Medina)
  • a home care worker
  • a hospital worker
  • a children's social worker
  • a case manager for the developmentally disabled
  • a child care provider
  • a college student
IMAGE: SEIU member Mariam Alvarez of Fresno holds a sign at the SEIU Rally against budget cuts for caregivers and student aid on Friday afternoon at Capitol.

Photo by Jose Luis Villegas, Sacramento Bee

December 12, 2008
From the notebook: Supervisors association president talks about layoffs, budget

Thumbnail image for 081211 Olin King.jpgOlin King, president of the Association of California State Supervisors spoke to The State Worker for Monday's layoff story. We've been so busy this week that we're just getting around to posting more of his comments:

On Schwarzenegger's Dec. 1 comment that the budget crisis has "almost forced" the state into laying off workers: It's premature to use a drastic solution like that before the Legislature explores all the viable options.

How staffing correlates to state revenue: Many revenue-gathering agencies have been understaffed for some time. If the Board of Equalization, for example, employed enough auditors, the state would get more revenue.

On the impact of layoffs: If the governor did that, he would be adding to the plight of the state, because of what it would do to state workers' disposable income, especially in Sacramento. There would be fewer people able to support business in the local area.

On whether Schwarzenegger's layoff talk is merely a negotiating tactic: It's possible that the governor is posturing, But he might be quite serious about it. Either way, it's not a prudent way to deal with a crisis that affects all Californians, not just state workers.

How layoffs would punish state workers twice: If we're singled out, that means we'll be carrying an extra burden. If governor decides to increase sales taxes, for example, employees who lose their jobs not only sacrifice once (by bearing the higher tax burden), they sacrifice twice (by losing their jobs).

On what ACSS members are saying: Our members are concerned that the governor is not being fair with them. They're battered and bruised from the souring economy. They're dealing with the mortgage meltdown. They're confronted with the same increases in cost of living as everyone else.

The governor should remember that. He shouldn't do something just because he has the power to do it. He has a higher level of objectivity that he has to exercise. It would be well worth the effort to work with legislators rather then using these kinds of draconian measures to deal with the situation.

IMAGE: Olin King / www.acssonline.org

December 8, 2008
From the notebook: SEIU 1000 president talks about possible layoffs

081208 Yvonne Walker.JPgOur report in today's Bee on the aftermath of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's comment last week that he is "almost forced" into layoff employees to stem California's burgeoning expenses is drawing heavy readership and comments. If you missed it, you can read the story by clicking here.

We never get all of what we learn into a news story or column. Fortunately, this blog can give users items of interest from the notebook :

Yvonne Walker, president SEIU Local 1000, 081205. phone interview.

On what the union can do about layoffs: There is process for layoffs. We have it in our contracts. But as a union, we don't get to decide whether the state lays off people. We make sure it's done fairly and try to offer alternatives to doing that. Realistically, we don't have he ability to stop a layoff if it comes.

About California's growing financial crisis: Local 1000 is well aware that there is a crisis. We're ready to weigh in and to try to be part of the solution. But rather than the governor putting all this stuff in the paper (layoff talk) and offering sound bites ... let's sit down and work together to see how we can work this out.

On budget strategy: When I come to a time of crisis, the first thing I look at: What do I have right now that I don't absolutely have to have? How much will cutting it save me? So maybe I go from cable to basic cable. Maybe I stop buying Oscar Mayer and buy (store brand) baloney.

We provide a lot of services... I would expect our governor, the Legislature and department heads to be doing the same thing, looking at what the state does and saying, "This service is nice but it's not a service we can continue right now. But they're not. And they should be holding public forums, getting public input so that they really understand the depth of the crisis.

On how the state is going to solve its money mess: We're not going to come out of this just with cuts. It's going to take a combination of a lot of the things. There are going to have to be cuts. We're going to have to raise taxes. We need to go after federal money. But let's sit down and see how we can work this out.

And we need to have everyone, the unions, the governor and the Legislature conveying the same message. Instead they're talking about cutting work breaks and lunches. We didn't get into this crisis because people eat lunch.

On how state workers are faring: They're just like everybody else out there. State workers are losing their houses. They're making hard choices. They're cutting their budgets.

On the politics of money: This is serious. I think it requires everybody to bring their most serious ideas. This isn't a time for politicians to be politicians. Time for them to be Californians. I can't tell you how angry I am at the Republicans who singed the no-tax pledge.

There are tough choices to be made. Instead, the governor does things like trying to reduce wages to $6.55 (per hour), furloughs ... and now layoffs. These things are more symbolic than substantial. We need more than symbolism.

We (SEIU) are willing to participate in forming a solution. We've been begging t help. But the governor hasn't taken us up on it.

IMAGE: Yvonne Walker / Sacramento Bee



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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