The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

September 9, 2013
California state worker-AWOL bill sent to Jerry Brown's desk

110822 Assembly chamber.JPGA bill that gives state employees a better chance at reinstatement if they're fired for being AWOL is on the way to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

Republicans in the Democratically-controlled Assembly framed debate over Assembly Bill 855 as an argument over existing law that allows state workers five days away without explanation before they can be terminated. They can be reinstated if they explain to an administrative law judge why they were absent and why they failed to get leave for the absence. They must also show proof they are "ready, able and willing" to return to the job.

But the judge can't consider the other side of the equation: whether the employer properly invoked the AWOL statute to terminate an employee. The measure by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, allows for that.

The Democrat-controlled Assembly had already approved the bill once and sent it to the Senate. Friday's vote was to approve minor tweaks made by the upper chamber.

Such "concurrence" votes usually aren't dramatic. But the first round of votes fell a few shy of the 41 required to produce a majority for the union-backed bill, despite Democrat's two-thirds control of the 80-seat Assembly. The measure was put on hold, more votes rounded up and it eventually went to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. Final tally: 46-30.

PHOTO: The California Assembly during a 2011 session. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

July 31, 2013
Unusual California state government jobs: Gunsmith

_DSC1142.jpgThis is the third installment in our series of interviews with California state employees with unusual jobs.

State worker: Frank Higginson

Job Title: Lead gunsmith for the California Highway Patrol

Number of years with the state: 23

What does a typical week in the life of a gunsmith look like?

July 18, 2013
Column Extra: The first try at CHP pay parity

Our column in today's Bee takes on the question: How did CHP officers' pay become set by law?

The answer is a story than spans four decades, Republican and Democratic governors and battles wages in the statehouse, the courthouse and the ballot box.

Ironically, Caifornia voters rejected a measure to guarantee CHP officers receive pay comparable to the maximum paid their counterparts statewide. Gov. (and former actors' union president) Ronald Reagan signed the first CHP pay parity law.

The documents below include the 1972 ballot measure's title and summary in a letter from then-Attorney General Evelle Younger to -- that's right -- former Secretary of State Jerry Brown.

Proposition 16 Title and Summary

July 10, 2013
CA psychiatric technicians reach tentative deal with Jerry Brown

RCB_SHARON_VISITS_NAPA_ID.JPGState psychiatric technicians and Gov. Jerry Brown reached a tentative three-year agreement Wednesday that includes a 4.25 percent pay raise for the unit by 2015.

The California Association of Psychiatric Technicians, which represents about 6,000 psychiatric technicians in state service, became the second union to reach a new three-year deal after its contract with the state expired July 1.

The new agreement is similar to the deal struck earlier this summer between Brown and SEIU Local 1000, under which members got a 4.5 percent raise. Like the SEIU deal, psychiatric technicians will either receive the raise in two parts -- 2 percent in 2014 and 2.25 percent in 2015, or all 4.25 percent in 2015 if the state determines it does not have the funds for the raise in 2014.

Under the agreement, furloughs and PLP time will be prohibited for the duration of the contract.

"We sought to make improvement in both economic and non-economic contract language," said Brady Oppenheim, a consultant for California Association of Psychiatric Technicians. "And we feel we achieved modest, but fair improvements in this latest tentative agreement."

More psychiatric technicians who make up bargaining unit 18 work in state developmental centers, hospitals and prisons to provide care for developmentally disabled and mentally ill clients.

The agreement will now head to both the Legislature and union membership for voting.

PHOTO: Sharon Benda shows her license as ID to gain entry to visit her mentally ill son at the Napa State Hospital in Napa on Saturday September 4, 2004. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer.

July 9, 2013
SEIU Local 1000 members overwhelmingly approve contract

20120620_HA_WALKER0026.JPGNinety percent of SEIU Local 1000 voters approved a new contract with Gov. Jerry Brown, the union announced late Tuesday.

The Legislature ratified the contract last week, and the union says it expects Brown to sign the deal on Wednesday. It includes a 4.5 percent pay raise for SEIU members by 2015. It also bans furloughs for the length of the contract period and increases travel and business reimbursements.

"Our new contract delivers on each of the four top priorities identified by our members," union president Yvonne R. Walker said in a prepared statement. "It protects retirement, preserves our 80/20 health benefit premiums, prohibits new furloughs or PLP days, and includes a wage increase for everyone."

The union, which has about 95,000 members, is the largest representing state workers.

PHOTO: Yvonne Walker, president of California state employees' largest labor union SEIU Local 1,000, smiles as she talks with Senator Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles on June 20, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

July 8, 2013
Read the California Highway Patrol's contract addendum

The California Association of Highway Patrolmen's annual salary calculation, which is based on the salaries of five local law enforcement agencies, yielded a 5.9 percent raise for the union this year.

California Highway Patrol officers pay is determined by a formula which calculates the average total compensation of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland police departments.

Three of those agencies have negotiated raises recently. Los Angeles police officers received a 2 percent raise last year and are scheduled to receive 4 percent increase this year. San Diego officers negotiated a 7 percent raise over 5 years and the Los Angeles sheriff's deputies made a deal to get a 6 percent increase over two years.

Read the addendum below.

Addendum to the California Association of Highway Patrolmen Contract

July 3, 2013
Jerry Brown grants raises for some water department workers

Jerry Brown 2012 amezcua.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has agreed to increase pay by up to 37 percent for water department workers in positions the state has had difficulty staffing.

Brown and representatives from International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) finalized an addendum to the union's contract Wednesday to raise the pay by 17.9 percent to 37.4 percent for 741 employees for 34 job classifications in the Department of Water Resources. The raises are effective immediately and are estimated to cost the state $18.3 million.

State and union officials have said the raises are needed to prevent the drain of State Water Project employees to other higher-paying jobs. The vacancy rate in jobs responsible for running and operating the vast project has run between 10 percent and 15 percent for the last two years.

The agreement comes after California Water Commission Chairman Joseph Byrne warned of a staffing "crisis" in the department. In a April 23 letter to Resources Secretary John Laird, he noted some employees were being paid "65 percent below the industry's median."

In some cases, the state has spent $300,000 to $400,000 to train employees, only to see them lured away from state service by higher salaries elsewhere, department officials have said.

In effort to retain existing staff in the short term, the agreement prevents workers from immediately using the extra pay to bump up their retirement. The deal says workers cannot apply any of the raise toward their pension calculation if they retire before July 1, 2014 and only half of it if they retire before July 1, 2015. After that, their full salary could be used for pension calculations.

The agreement will affect 19 rank-and-file classes, three manager classes and 12 supervisor classes.

"As one of the largest utilities in the world, it is vitally important that the Department of Water Resources retain highly skilled professionals to ensure timely, efficient deliveries of water to 25 million Californians and thousands of farms and ranches," Richard Stapler, deputy secretary of the Natural Resources Agency, said in a prepared statement. "California's economy relies on a secure, reliable supply of water, and a loss of these professionals to other utilities could also cost the state millions of dollars in missed water deliveries."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

July 3, 2013
What California state workers earn: The grand finale

ha_SEIU44713.JPGWith state worker unions at the bargaining table negotiating with Gov. Jerry Brown for more pay, among other issues, The State Worker has been running a series looking at what the state workforce earned in 2011 and 2012..

There are still 10 bargaining units at the negotiating table after contracts for most state workers expired Monday. The only contract to be renegotiated so far, that for the nine bargaining units represented by SEIU Local 1000, is still awaiting ratification. Local 1000 members will continue voting on the contract through next Monday.

Salaries are a big negotiating point for unions after years of pay cuts, furloughs and personal leave time.

Below are the links for the series, which shows salary statistics for each bargaining unit:

SEIU Local 1000, Part 1
SEIU Local 1000, Part 2
State Lawyers
Highway patrol officers
Prison and parole officers
Law enforcement
Firefighters
Engineers
Scientists
Operating engineers
Doctors and dentists
Psychiatric technicians
Health and social services

Also, check out The Bee's state worker pay database here.

PHOTO: Blanche Espinoza, of Stockton, writes a message on a banner in support of state workers as a large group of SEIU Local 1000 members and supporters gathered at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Wednesday, June 30, 2010 to protest the proposed cut to their salaries to the federal minimum wage. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

July 1, 2013
California state union contracts expire today

130124 Jerry Brown Amezcua.JPGContracts expire today for most of the state government workforce, as Gov. Jerry Brown and representatives for 10 bargaining units continue to negotiate new deals.

Brown reached agreement with the state's largest union, Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, last month, but the contract has yet to be ratified. The contract, which includes a 4.5% pay increase for rank-and-file members by 2015, cleared the state Assembly on a 63-8 vote last week and is awaiting action in the Senate. SEIU members, meanwhile, will continue to vote on ratification through July 8.

The SEIU deal covers nine of the state's 21 bargaining units. Two other units -- those covering the California Highway Patrol and state firefighters -- extended their previous deals until 2018 and 2017, respectively.

But unions representing workers in 10 other bargaining units, including those for prison guards, scientists and engineers, are still at the table.

Until the new contracts are renegotiated, the unions will continue to operate under the terms of their current contract.

Asked about the status of contract negotiations this afternoon, Brown said, "the process continues."

He said, "I never like to characterize these negotiations," but he added, "The state is productively engaged."

David Siders contributed to this post.

June 24, 2013
Senators to discuss new SEIU Local 1000 contract

130408-beall-2013-senate-chamber-amezcua.JPGThe Senate Committee on Public Employment and Retirement is holding a hearing today to discuss the newly negotiated SEIU Local 1000 contract.

The hearing, which will take place at 2 p.m. in Room 2040 of the Capitol, comes after both the Legislative Analyst's Office and the Senate committee released their reports on the contract.

The LAO's analysis notes that the Department of Finance will determine next May whether the state's finances are stable enough to trigger the first part of the raise on July 1, 2014. The LAO says the state would save $135 million if the raises are put off until 2015.

The Senate committee analysis notes the average state worker has seen his or her salary reduced by $21,000 since furloughs began in 2008.

The new contract also includes an increase in the reimbursement amount for state employee travel expenses. The new per diem meal rate will increase from $34 to $40 and the new lodging rate, which varies by county, will go from a range of $84 to $140 to $90 to $150 a day. The reimbursement rate for lodging in Sacramento, Napa, and Riverside counties will be $95 a day.

The audio for today's hearing is available here.

PHOTO: Senator Jim Beall, D-San Jose, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Employment and Retirement, in Senate chambers on March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/ Hector Amezcua

June 24, 2013
What California state workers earn: SEIU Local 1000, part 2

San_Quentin_State_Prison_Nurse.jpgBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

With talks and ratification votes for new state employee contracts on the agenda over the next few weeks, The State Worker is looking at what unionized workers earned over the last two years by bargaining unit.

The numbers feeding the series come from the state controller's payroll database. The figures include only regular pay issued to full-time employees represented by the 21 bargaining units that negotiate contracts with the state. University of California and California State University employee earnings are not included in these figures. The data cover the calendar years 2011 and 2012.

SEIU Local 1000, bargaining units 15, 17, 20 and 21. (Click here for info about Local 1000 units 1, 3, 4, 11 and 14.)

Now, SEIU Local 1000, bargaining units 15, 17, 20, and 21.

June 21, 2013
What California state workers earn: SEIU Local 1000, part 1

JM_STATE_DIGITAL_ARCHIVE.JPGBy Amy Gebert and Jon Ortiz

With talks and ratification votes for new state employee contracts on the agenda over the next few weeks, The State Worker is taking a first-ever look at what unionized workers earned over the last two years by bargaining unit.

The numbers feeding the series come from the state controller's payroll database. The figures include only regular pay issued to full-time employees represented by the 21 bargaining units that negotiate contracts with the state. University of California and California State University employee earnings are not included in these figures. The data cover the calendar years of 2011 and 2012.

First up: SEIU Local 1000, bargaining units 1, 3, 4, 11 and 14.

April 22, 2013
California retiree health measure fails in committee

130422-walters-Jeff-Gritchen-AP-2013-file.JPGA measure that would have forced future California state employees pay more for their retiree health insurance and wait longer to qualify for it died in a Senate committee Monday afternoon.

The five-member Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee voted down Senate Bill 774 along party lines, 3-2.

The measure, written by Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Irvine, would have applied only to state workers hired on or after Jan. 1, 2015.

Those future employees would have had to work 15 years to qualify for 50 percent of their retiree health-benefit costs and 25 years for 100 percent coverage. Currently the threshold is 10 years for half coverage and 20 years for full coverage.

Employees hired after the measure would have taken effect also would have had to share equally in prefunding the normal cost of their retiree health benefits. And the states would have been prohibited from providing their retiree health benefits unless they were fully funded.

Unlike its pension obligations, California doesn't save ahead for future retiree health costs. The pay-as-you go method will cost the state an estimated $1.81 billion this year. The state controller figures the debt on future benefits for current employees and retirees stands at $63.9 billion in current dollars.

January 18, 2013
California board apologizes for WWII discrimination against Japanese Americans

130118 SPB logo.jpegThe State Personnel Board has issued a formal apology for a 71-year-old resolution that essentially kicked 265 Japanese Americans out of state service and prevented countless others from taking state government work during World War II.

The apology, laid out in a resolution adopted last week, has no legal consequences. Many years ago the state rescinded its discriminatory resolutions and awarded back pay to 88 Japanese Americans who challenged their terminations. A 1983 state law awarded up to $5,000 to Japanese American employees who lost their state jobs.

But until last week the board had never said it was sorry for its part in the institutionalized discrimination.

"I applaud the State Personnel Board for its resolution," said David Unruhe, spokesman for the Japanese American Citizens League. "This apology was a long time coming, but it is a sincere apology nevertheless."

January 17, 2013
DMV says it hasn't given employees second paid positions

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 100607 CALPERS HQ.JPGUPDATE 5:28 p.m.: DMV says it spoke too soon about employees with two jobs

Although CalPERS thought otherwise, a Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman said today that DMV doesn't give its employees dual positions in the department to ease workloads.

During interviews and email exchanges with The Bee for today's report on CalPERS salaried managers earning extra money for hourly work, a fund spokesman said officials there believed that the practice is "relatively common" among state employers.

December 26, 2012
California DMV employee invents language, loses control of it

If you tend to stereotype state workers or know someone who does, refer them to "Utopian for Beginners," a recent story in The New Yorker about John Quijada, a former Department of Motor Vehicles employee who spent decades creating his own language, Ithkuil.

Writer Joshua Foer weaves Quijada's life story into a tale of how he gains notoriety among linguists and then loses control of his invention. At one point in the narrative, Quijada describes explaining to his managers that he is a conlanger -- a person who invents language -- and that he's been asked to speak at a conference in Kalmykia in the Russian federation:

"People at work now held me in some sort of state of half awe, because this guy obviously has more going on in his head than being a manager at this dopey state agency, and half in contempt, because I've now proved myself to be beyond whatever state of geekery they might have previously thought about me," Quijada said. " 'You're a what? A con man?' 'No, boss, a conlanger.' "

Click here to read the story from the latest edition of The New Yorker.

Editor's note, Dec. 21: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referenced Quijada as asking his DMV managers for leave. Quijada has also worked for the Board of Equalization. The story doesn't say from which department's management he requested leave.

December 19, 2012
CalPERS state employee retirements flat for 2012

The number of state workers who applied for their pensions in 2012 was essentially unchanged compared with the previous year, new data from CalPERS shows.

From mid-December 2011 to mid-December of this year, 10,596 state employees took their pensions, just 75 fewer than the number who headed for the exits the year before. CalPERS counts applications from mid-month to mid-month, so the final two weeks of December 2012 will be counted in the January 2013 tally.

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 27, 2012
California state worker retirements decline slightly

New CalPERS data show that the number of state workers who have entered retirement has fallen slightly from the first nine months of 2011.

The 8,171 employees who applied for their state pensions declined 3.3 percent to 8,454 during the first nine months of 2011.



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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