The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

September 13, 2013
Poll: California public-employee bills that passed, failed in 2013

With the California Legislature now closed until 2014, here's a quick scorecard on legislation of consequence to state workers (not including contract bills). Will measures that went to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk will become law? Will defeated bills make a comeback next year?

AB 1222 (Bloom and Dickinson) PASSED
Temporarily exempts unionized mass-transit employees from California's new pension law. Keeps billions of dollars in federal mass-transit grants flowing while the courts decide whether pension reform mandates violate collective bargaining and therefore disqualifies agencies that apply the law from receiving the federal funds.

AB 218 (Dickinson) PASSED
Requires that state and local government employers delay asking job applicants about their criminal conviction history until the agency determines potential hires' minimum qualifications. Part of the "ban the box" movement.

September 5, 2013
When should government ask job seekers about criminal past?

job-seekers.jpgOur State Worker column in today's fiber/cyber Bee looks at government hiring policies in California and laws in other states that de-emphasize asking whether job applicants have criminal histories.

Assemblyman Roger Dickinson's Assembly Bill 218 would make California's policy a law with a few more restrictions on employers and apply it to all state and local governments. (Dickinson's bill makes some exceptions for law enforcement officers and the like, although some opponents say those exceptions need to be braodend and better defined.)

The National Employment Law Project -- which describes itself as partnering with "grassroots groups and national organizations, worker centers and unions, policymakers and think tanks" to promote middle-class jobs -- tracks state and local governments that aren't giving as much prominence as they once did to criminal history questions. Click here to view the group's thoroughly linked list of entities that "ban the box," a phrase referring to the check-box lines that many job applications use to ask about criminal history.

The column also refers to two lawsuits that the Obama administration filed against private-sector employers that allegedly screened applicants and fired employees using criminal background checks. Here's the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's June press release about those two cases and why the commission says their practice discriminated against minorities.

PHOTO: Job seekers crowd around a table to get information on available jobs during the California Job Journal HIREvent on Feb. 10, 2009, in San Francisco. Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

August 19, 2013
CalPERS state retirements up this year despite July dip

The latest data from CalPERS show that the total number of state employee retirements this year continues to outpace 2012, even though July's total dipped by nearly 5 percent year over year.

So far, 6,643 state workers have applied to take their service pensions, up more than 2.8 percent from the same seven-month period a year ago.

The trend is the same among local government and school district employees in CalPERS. The fund has received 19,282 pension applications overall this year, representing an increase of almost 2.8 percent from 2012. (Click here for detailed spreadsheets with seven years of CalPERS retirement data.)

Experts say that the rate of public employee retirements is returning to normal levels after several years of budget crises, furloughs, layoffs, buyouts and uncertainty over pension benefits prompted some employees to retire early.

April 2, 2013
Poll: Should California state workers have treadmill desks?

Stateline's Melissa Maynard reports on a proposed pilot program in Oregon "that would fund treadmill desks for some state workers and study the effects on health and productivity. Treadmill desks range in cost from $400 to $5,000, but the hope is that the state could recoup its expenses through lowered health care costs over the long run."

Treadmill desks are popping up in the private sector, Maynard says, but the upfront costs create a hurdle for governments.

Oregon Republican state Rep. Jim Thompson, who sponsored the bill, says the benefits from a healthier state workforce outweigh the costs.

Read Maynard's story and then take our poll:

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 23, 2013
Poll: What do you think about CalPERS' dual-appointments?

Now that CalPERS has suspended its practice of appointing some managers to second rank-and-file jobs that pay hourly wages, we'd like to know what you think of the policy.

If you missed the story, you can catch up here:
Jan. 17: Some CalPERS managers given second jobs, extra money
Jan. 18: Lawmakers say they will probe dual jobs of California state workers
Jan. 19: CalPERS suspends extra pay program for managers

October 31, 2012
Poll: How will Props. 30 and 32 fare next week?

We're in the final stretch to Election Day on Nov. 6, with two measures of particular interest to state workers on the ballot: Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase, Proposition 30, and the campaign finance measure we've closely covered for the last two months, Proposition 32.

We've written about the political link between the two and how opponents and proponents of each measure have calculated how much of their combined $124 million or so to put into the dual-front battle.

Viewed as a political package, there are only four ways the vote can go. One is a clear win for organized labor. One is a clear win for business interests.

The other two possible outcomes, in our estimation, would be more of a win for business than for the unions.

When the votes are tallied, which way do you think it will go? Thoughtful comments welcomed for a Blog Back we're planning to write soon.

October 24, 2012
Poll: Support for Proposition 32 falls to 39 percent

Public support for Proposition 32, the controversial campaign finance measure, has faded to 39 percent among likely voters two weeks before Election Day, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll.

Fifty-three percent of likely voters oppose the proposal to ban unions and corporations from using payroll-deduced money for political purposes, according to the poll released tonight. Seven percent are undecided.

California's labor unions, which rely on payroll-deduced dues, have made defeating the measure their priority this election year.

Public opinion about the initiative breaks along party lines, with a majority of Republicans favoring it and a majority of Democrats opposed. Independent voters oppose the measure by a 49 percent to 42 percent margin, according to the poll.

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?

October 12, 2012
Poll: How much would Prop. 32 impact California unions?

Forces arrayed for and against Proposition 32, which would ban payroll-deducted money for political activities, are entering the last three weeks before the Nov. 6 election. Polling indicates that California voters are leaning against the measure.

But what if it passes?

September 28, 2012
Majority of California voters say pension reform balanced or went too far

More than half of likely California voters think recent changes to public pensions strike a good balance or go too far, according to a new poll by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times.

The poll mirrors a similar survey by the Field Poll and UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies released last week.

September 25, 2012
From the notebook: The Field Poll numbers on Proposition 32

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.

Several blog users have asked for more of the data that informed our Friday story in the Bee about a Propostion 32 voter survey by the Field Poll and the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

What follows is the statistical breakdown and analysis by the Field Poll's Mark Dicamillo and Mervin Field, including the results of a question on pension reform. Scroll to the bottom of the document for the poll's methodology and the exact wording of the questions asked.

If you want to go even deeper, we've also embedded the poll tabulations that break out responses by subgroups such as geography, ethnicity, education level and age.

September 19, 2012
Poll: What do you think of Proposition 32?

You've read the stories, columns and the blog posts. Maybe you've talked about it with your friends, family and coworkers. Now weigh in on Proposition 32:

September 1, 2012
Poll: What's your take on the pension bill sent to Jerry Brown?
July 16, 2012
Poll: Does the state cap leave or just pay lip service to policy?

The Bee's Matt Weiser reports that a former Parks and Recreation Department manager ran a secret leave cash-out program that funneled more than a quarter-million dollars to 56 employees, including more than $20,000 to himself.

The story is a reminder that rules and policies are only as effective as the people who enforce them.

Which brings us to our poll question:

June 13, 2012
Poll: Are retired annuitants a blessing or a curse for the state?

Our story in today's Bee looks at Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate all but the most essential retired annuitants from the state workforce. An analysis of state payroll figures showed that about 5,800 state retirees last year drew both a pension and a paycheck at an overall cost to departments of about $110 million.

If you haven't read the story, check it out and then weigh in via our poll:

June 6, 2012
Poll: What do the pension votes in San Diego and San Jose mean?

Some 60 percent of State worker blog users correctly predicted yesterday that voters in San Diego and San Jose would approve pension reform measures that roll back benefits for those cities' employees.

But what to make of the vote? Dave Low, who chairs labor coaltion Californians for Retirement Security, said in a statement last night that both measures won on the strength of heavy spending by proponents.

Pension reformers are claiming both wins as part of a soul-crushing trend for unions and a sign of bigger things to come. Marcia Fritz of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, sent this spreadsheet of local pension reform ballot measures in California since 2010. The numbers indicate that 18 of 20 such measures have passed with an average 65 percent of the vote.

June 5, 2012
Poll: What will California voters decide about San Diego, San Jose pension reforms?

As voters head to the polls today, all eyes are on public pension measures on local ballots in San Diego and San Jose, the nation's eighth-largest and 10th-largest cities respectively. The measures both would put new hires into cheaper defined contribution retirement programs.

The San Jose proposal also would impact current employees by forcing them to choose between much higher out-of-pocket contributions to keep a defined benefit pension or switch to the cheaper defined contribution plan. The San Diego plan freezes employee pay used to calculate city pensions for six years, although the city council could override that provision with a two-thirds vote.

The measures have statewide and perhaps even national implications for the public pension reform movement as check on the electorate's mood on the issue.

Click here to read more about the San Jose's Measure B and click here for details about San Diego's Proposition B. Then take our poll:

About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

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


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