The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 10, 2013
Jerry Brown signs bill to ban felony question on public job apps

130912-Job-fair-pge.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that bans government employers from asking job applicants about their criminal record until later in the hiring process, effectively extending the state's policy to some 6,000-plus local and regional government agencies in California.

Assembly Bill 218, by Sacramento Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, requires public employers determine a job applicant's minimum qualifications before they ask about the person's conviction history.

Practically speaking, that means removing the check-box questions common on many applications that ask, "Have you ever been convicted of a felony?"

Once the law takes effect on July 1, 2014, employers will have to wait later in the hiring process to inquire about a job candidate's criminal past. Applications and initial interviews for jobs that by law require a conviction background check, such as police officers, are exempt. The state, for example, includes the question on a supplemental application form given for California Highway Patrol officer candidates.

September 24, 2013
California Energy Commission HQ to remain closed Wednesday

130924-California-Energy-Commission-LOGO.jpgThe California Energy Commission headquarters in downtown Sacramento will remain closed on Wednesday after a chemical leak forced the building to be shut down Tuesday morning.

State and local officials closed the building shortly after the leak was discovered at around 6 a.m. The commission had expected the cleanup to be completed in time to open for business on Wednesday, but it's going more slowly than anticipated.

The building has to be certified by the appropriate authorities to reopen, commission spokesman Adam Gottlieb said Tuesday afternoon, adding, "They want to make sure it's absolutely clean."

Roughly 550 people who work at the building at 1516 Ninth St. were displaced after an employee discovered diesel fuel in a mechanical room. The fuel came from a backup generator on the building's roof. No one was injured in the incident.

IMAGE: www.energy.ca.gov

September 24, 2013
Fuel spill closes Energy Commission building


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Roughly 550 California Energy Commission workers are at home today after a backup generator on the agency headquarters' roof leaked diesel fuel into a mechanical room.

No one was injured by contact with the noxious fumes.

Commission spokesman Adam Gottlieb said that an employee discovered the fuel around 6 a.m. State and local toxic substance official have closed the building, located at 1516 9th St. in Sacramento.

"We're in clean up mode," Gottlieb said by telephone this morning. "We should be back up tomorrow."

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

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
Assembly apologizes to fired Japanese-American state workers

110822 Assembly chamber.JPGThe Assembly today approved a resolution that formally apologizes for a 1942 policy that institutionalized discrimination against more than 300 Japanese-American California state employees during WWII.

Assembly Concurrent Resolution 19 offers no reparations for terminating those workers on the basis of their ancestry, noting that the state gave wrongly-dismissed employees $5,000 each as a "symbolic compensation" in 1982. (Although the government offered reinstatement in 1946, only a handful reported to work within the 10 days given them.)

The Legislature has never offered an official apology for initiating the policy. The State Personnel Board, which carried out the Legislature's edict to discriminate against Japanese-American employees, issued an apology earlier this year.

Assemblyman Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat, authored the resolution, which passed on a voice vote.

PHOTO: Lawmakers meet in the California Assembly chamber in 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

July 16, 2013
University of California, AFSCME contract talks deadlocked

130716-AFSCME_UC_REGENTS_Protest.JPGDespite more than a year of bargaining, a two-day strike and union accusations that its medical facilities are understaffed and poorly managed, the University of California's contract talks for its 15,000 hospital workers remain deadlocked.

Now the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 says it's prepared to make concessions on pensions, including higher contributions from all workers and later retirement ages for future hires, but it wants the UC to hire more hospital employees and cap high-end pensions.

June 18, 2013
California bill adds fine for child porn on public computers

130618-students-computers-kitagaki.JPGState workers convicted of possessing or transmitting child pornography would have to pay an extra $2,000 fine if they used work computers to commit the crime, under terms of a bill breezing through the Legislature.

Assemblywoman Marie Waldron's measure is aimed at curbing criminal use of public computers in libraries and at colleges, but the measure would also apply to public employees' workstations. The bill cleared the Assembly on a 74-0 vote and now is set for a floor vote in the Senate.

Current law makes possessing, transporting or producing child pornography punishable by imprisonment county jail for a year or state prison for up to three years plus a fine of up to $10,000. Possession for sale is punishable by up to six years in state prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Assembly Bill 20 mandates that revenue from the $2,000 government computer-use fine be shared equally to fund sexual assault investigator training, to fund public agencies and nonprofits serving victims of human trafficking;and to fund teams that fight child abuse by bringing together law enforcement, child protection groups, medical and mental health providers and victim and child advocacy organizations.

California Assembly Bill 20

PHOTO: Students work on computers in the library media area at THE Yuba College Sutter County Center in 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

June 7, 2013
California board will audit executive jobs filled by retirees

130606-SPB-logo.jpegThe State Personnel Board has decided to begin auditing the practice of retired annuitants getting career executive assignments.

The decision, announced at the board's meeting this week, falls shy of what the Coalition of State Advocate Groups and Organizations wanted, namely a full hearing into the policy reported in an April investigation by The Bee.

The coalition says that appointing retired annuitants as CEAs breaches state policy, overpays the retirees for the work they actually perform and fosters cronyism. Since the personnel board exists to watchdog state government's civil-service merit system, the group asked the five-member panel to hold a hearing.

While the personnel board has a part in authorizing new career executive positions, it doesn't control retiree hiring policy. That's the California Department of Human Resource's job (and CalHR as of last month had two retirees appointed to CEA positions).

Board chairwoman Patricia Clarey read this statement into the record Tuesday:

May 22, 2013
Assembly bill tweaks state's five-day AWOL determination law

130522-Write-up.jpgThe Assembly has passed a bill that gives state employees more due-process protections if they are prematurely terminated for being off work without permission.

SEIU Local 1000 sponsored the measure by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, which would allow an adjudicating law judge to consider whether a department properly fired an employee who for being AWOL.

Currently the law assumes AWOL firings are righteous. An adjudicating law judge can reinstate employees who satisfactorily explain their absence, why they failed to obtain leave and also can prove readiness, willingness and ability to return to work.

But a judge can't consider whether departments fire employees before they cross the AWOL threshold for dismissal: five consecutive days away from work. Brown's bill requires a department to reinstate employees who are fired prematurely. If they don't, employees could then make that argument for reinstatement and a judge would have the leeway to consider it.

AB 855 also says that employees can demonstrate fitness to resume duty with documented verification from a doctor or other licensed health care provider.

IMAGE CREDIT: PhotoObjects.net / Getty Images

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 31, 2013
Column Extra: More details about state employee moonlighting

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

Our column in today's Bee and Wednesday's news report take a look at "additional appointments" in state government, using new job data from the State Controller's Office. The practice allows employees, including salaried staff such as managers, to work a second job within a department and earn hourly wages for it.

The data, embedded below, are listed in alphabetical order by department and grouped by individual employee. A state worker's primary position is a white row followed by his or her additional appointment in the highlighted row.

The spreadsheet reflects non-rank-and-file employees whose job record includes at least one additional appointment within the same department on Jan. 11.

January 30, 2013
Bill would end California state employees' moonlighting

20121203_HA_JEFF_GORELL.JPGRepublican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Camarillo, as promised, has introduced legislation to virtually eliminate state "additional appointments," an obscure and controversial personnel practice that allows employees to take a second state job.

We've embedded below a copy of the measure, Assembly Bill 208.

Meanwhile, CalPERS' CEO, Anne Stausboll and Julie Chapman, the state's top labor relations administrator, both told a legislative joint committee concerned with public employee issues they are examining the state's additional appointments policy.

Revelations two weeks ago that CalPERS used additional appointments for some computer and customer service jobs raised questions about the practice and caught the attention of lawmakers. The story broadened this week when State Controller's Office revealed that at least 11 departments have non-union employees -- including salaried managers and high-level administrators -- with at least two job titles.

The Brown administration on Tuesday said it was ending the practice immediately for all but "rare cases where it might save money or be necessary under law."

Asked this morning by committee co-chair Jim Beall what prompted the administration's action, Chapman said, "There are many different departments using additional positions. ... We thought it best to suspend (the practice) until we can develop a statewide policy."

Gorell said this morning that his proposal will evolve. For example, he's considering a change that would allow additional appointments with approval from the Finance Department or other administrative authority.

"The idea," Gorell said, "is to move accountability closer to elected officials, in this case, the governor."

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, joins Assembly members in applause after they were sworn in during the first day of session at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

Assembly Bill 208 by

January 25, 2013
California launches state government leadership program

The California Department of Human Resources is launching a new web-based training series on Monday that aims to develop leaders and spark cultural change in the state workplace.

The first webinar in the series, "Avoiding Groundhog Day the Movie: Learning from Experience," is set for Monday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Richard Callahan, an associate professor at the University of San Francisco's School of Management, is the featured presenter.

When CalHR replaced the Department of Personnel Administration and took over some of the State Personnel Board's duties, the idea was to create a department that could shake up the state's workplace culture, including its tendency, like most large bureaucracies, to resist change.

January 23, 2013
New round of repairs for California's state money pit

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 110829 BOE HQ.JPGA $4 million repair project will start soon on the state Board of Equalization headquarters in Sacramento, even as the agency continues its push to get out of its high-rise money pit.

BOE, which collects California business taxes, has spent $65 million so far on repairs to the 22-year-old building at 450 N St. The problems have ranged from leaking windows and burst water pipes to toxic mold and faulty elevators.

And that doesn't count pending repairs to the building's corroded wastewater pipes.

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."

December 28, 2012
Top 10 of 2012: State worker posts nearly 5,000 comments

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for countdown 10.JPGThis is the first in a series of posts counting down the most-read State Worker blog items of 2012 -- with a little hindsight twist.

When the state auditor reported that a Department of Education employee had posted 4,900 sacbee.com comments on his work time, our post about it drew enough attention to earn it 10th place in our countdown of this year's most-viewed State Worker blog items.

While the unnamed state worker's comment tally was astounding, Bee managing editor Tom Negrete to put the number in perspective for media blogger Jim Romenesko.

"As commenters go, he would not make our top 20 commenters, who each average 1,000 comments a month or more. We've spoken to most of those on the top 20 list, and they are mostly retired folks." Negrete said. "... so impressive to have a day job and still post about 600 comments a month."

Here's the Dec. 11 item: California state employee posts nearly 5,000 online comments from work

December 27, 2012
Column Extra video: Roger Dickinson cautions prospective public employees

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

This week's column springs from Assemblyman Roger Dickinson's hour-long visit with the Bee Capitol Bureau's reporters last week. During the discussion we asked the Sacramento Democrat what advice he would give to someone considering a career in state service.

We expected he would focus on the usual "P-words" that come up in government job discussions: "pensions" or "pay." Instead he surprised us with a different word: "privacy."

Here's a snippet of what Dickinson said:

December 26, 2012
The holidays: A blessing or a curse for state workers?

This morning's light freeway traffic and no-hassle parking were testament to how many people in Sacramento aren't working between Christmas and New Year's Day. The Legislature and their 1,100 or so staff are off. Sacramento State's fall semester ended. Many private businesses also close for the holidays.

But what about the region's biggest employer, the vast state bureaucracy? From Caltrans engineers to Franchise Tax Board accountants to Employment Development Department staff, Sacramento County is Workplace Central to about 61,000 of state workers, many of those jobs within walking distance of the Capitol.

Our sense from our drive in is that like everywhere else, many state employees take leave during the holidays. Is that what you're seeing? And is the week from Christmas through New Year's Day a reprieve or a hassle compared with the rest of the year?


December 11, 2012
State education department issues statement on audit

In response to a new audit that highlights a state employee's misuse of state resources during work hours, the Department of Education released this statement today:

SACRAMENTO--The California Department of Education responded today to the report issued by the California State Auditor.

"The Department has taken a number of steps that address issues raised in today's report by the State Auditor," said Communications Director Paul Hefner. "Prior to the report's release, the Department installed upgraded software that restricts employees from posting content to social media Web sites without authorization. The first supervisor named in the report has received additional training. In addition, while the Department was evaluating information provided by the Auditor, the employee involved voluntarily left employment with the Department."

RELATED POST:
California state employee posts nearly 5,000 online comments from work

December 11, 2012
Updated: California state employee posts nearly 5,000 online comments from work

Editor's note, 1:02 p.m.: This post has been updated with more information about disciplinary action taken and recommended against the employee who is the focus of the story and his supervisor.

A California Department of Education employee posted approximately 4,900 comments on The Sacramento Bee's website between December 2010 and December 2011, according to a state report released this morning that details several lapses, abuses and illegal acts by state workers and agencies.

Investigators found that the education employee posted comments on sacbee.com 195 days of the 208 days he was at work, averaging about 25 comments per day. On his most active day he wrote 70 comments during business hours.

Quizzed by auditors, the unnamed employee offered several explanations.

First, he said, his online postings were limited to his break times. Auditors looked at online comment records and found otherwise.

Then the employee said his commenting activity fulfilled his job obligation to follow educational technology news. Auditors knocked that down, too: "Although the employee's duty statement allocated 15 percent of his time to technical research and analysis, it made no mention of using state time to post public commentary regarding the results of his research."

Finally, the serial commenter said that for most of 2011 he had a lot of time on his hands because he didn't have any work to do, despite asking for more.

Federal government changes had indeed lightened the employee's workload, a supervisor confirmed, but management "had been able to find other projects to fill approximately 80 percent of the employee's time."

Auditors reported that education took "some informal action against the employee as a result of this investigation" and nothing more. The employee continued to use state resources to post comments.

The report recommends blocking the employee's computer from accessing sacbee.com for a "specified period," and taking "appropriate corrective action" against the serial commenter for misusing state resources and against his supervisor for allowing it to happen.

Auditors also found that the employee misused state time and equipment for his private contracting business during work hours.

Other highlights of the State Auditor's report covering investigations completed between April 2011 and June 2012 (summarized here and embedded below):

October 22, 2012
Unions remember state hospital employee killed two years ago

Thumbnail image for 121022 Donna Gross.JPGA union coalition of state hospital employees has scheduled observances around the state on Tuesday to remember Donna Gross, a psychiatric technican killed while on duty.

Locations for the 6 p.m. memorials include Napa State Hospital, where Gross worked. The events mark the two-year anniversary of her death at the hands of patient Jess Willard Massey. Massey is serving a 25 years-to-life sentence for the crime.

The 54-year-old's murder gave momentum to calls for heightened security at state mental hospitals and fostered the Safety Now! coalition. The group includes five unions with members working in California's mental hospitals: the American Federation of State County & Municipal Employees Local 2620, Service Employees International Union Local 1000, the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians, the Union of America Physicians & Dentists and the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association.

Here's more information about the statewide memorials.

PHOTO: Donna Gross / courtesy California Association of Psychiatric Technicians

August 31, 2012
California state board facing $4 million bill to fix HQ exterior, plumbing

Thumbnail image for 110829 BOE HQ.JPGCalifornia's Board of Equalization faces $3 million to $4 million in costs to replace faulty exterior glass panels on its 24-story headquarters and to make extensive repairs to faulty waste water drainage pipes inside it.

In an email to The State Worker, a board spokesman confirmed the new repairs and their cost, which were first reported by Cal Tax Reports.

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

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

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

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

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

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

PECG Jun4, 2012, furlough grievance and related correspondence

July 24, 2012
Study: State worker mentality makes Sacramento State a management challenge

Employees at California State University, Sacramento, are difficult to manage because of a "state worker environment" fostered by the school's bureaucratic neighbors, according to an report commissioned by officials and obtained by The Bee.

Interim Vice President for Human Resources Christine Lovely asked McKnight Associates Inc., a Westlake Village-based university HR consulting firm, to follow up on a 2006 study that examined the school's Office of Human Resources. The firm gave its findings to officials in April, noting that the university's grievance caseload at the time was two to three times that of any other CSU campuses surveyed.

The numbers:

Sacramento: 114
Long Beach: 52
San Jose: 46
San Francisco: 38
Northridge: 37
Fullerton: 32

Sacramento State's Office of Employment Equity last year fielded 77 formal complaints of discrimination, harassment, retaliation and other types of civil rights issues, McKnight reported, and spent $83,885 for outside firms to investigate employment issues.

"It is also noted that grievances from the CSUEU union account for about two-thirds of the total," the report says.

McKnight said that the same problems existed six years ago, and cites a key passage of the 2006 report as a big reason:

"There was a consensus among those interviewed that the campus culture presents a challenging workforce to manage. It was most frequently described as a 'state worker' environment greatly influenced by its close proximity to the bureaucratic attitudes of State offices. It was made clear by mid-level administrators that a high level of 'management fatigue' in dealing with this environment has historically been present."

We verified the report's authenticity with Sacramento State. Here it is:

July 19, 2012
Column Extra: Arnold Schwarzenegger's pitch on banking leave

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

Today's column looks at the Parks Department leave scandal as a failure of management. In fact, if you talk to anyone who has looked at the issue of excessive state leave accrual, a common comment you'll hear is that it's primarily a management problem.

State policymakers have been talking about fixing it for years. Here's a proposal that the old Department of Personnel Administration made to SEIU Local 1000 back in 2005. The same proposal went out to all the unions that year, but it fell flat. The unions pointed out that the growing leave-balance problem was a management issue, not a rank-and-file problem. Managers pushed back. The idea fell flat.

Side note: The two sides did eventually agree that year on using a highest three-year average to calculate pensions for future hires.

Scroll down to Article 8 at the top of page 3:
DPA's 2005 bargaining proposals to SEIU Local 1000

June 26, 2012
Defining 'mission critical' retired annuitants in California's state workforce

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.

So what's a "mission critical" retired annuitant, anyway?

We'll soon find out. As we've reported, the horse-trading between Gov. Jerry Brown and SEIU Local 1000 over furloughs included a mandate that departments purge their payrolls of RAs by Sept. 1. Only those deemed mission critical -- in other words, people whose departure would impair the normal function of the organization -- will be exempt.

June 25, 2012
Rumor of Highway Patrol pay deal spreads false info

chp badge.JPGA persistent rumor is wafting through state government that the California Association of Highway Patrolmen is pushing legislation that would reduce how much they contribute to their pensions.

While The State Worker loves a good pay-and-politics scandal as much as anybody, in this case the rumor is false.

Here's a recent email to The State Worker that succinctly explains the scuttlebutt we've been hearing:

June 25, 2012
Poll: Will SEIU Local 1000 members vote for a pay cut?

As reported here, SEIU Local 1000 will let members cast ballots on Wednesday to register where they stand on a new furlough agreement negotiated with Gov. Jerry Brown.

The results of the vote will be announced on July 2. How do you think it will turn out?

June 22, 2012
Jerry Brown reaches furlough deal with California state doctors, dentists

The Union of American Physician and Dentists has agreed to an 8-hours-per-month furlough for its members that will begin July 1.

The agreement covers roughly 1,800 doctors and dentists. The union has posted the details of the side letter that avoids reopening the union's full contract. Under the terms of the so-called "personal leave program," or PLP, the state deducts 4.62 percent of gross pay from each employee's monthly paycheck. They have some flexibility to schedule the time off, according to the union's summary of the agreement:

PLP 2012 must be used in the month in which it is earned. PLP 2012 shall be requested and used by the employee in the same manner as vacation or annual leave. If the employee has not submitted a PLP 2012 leave request by the 20th of the month in which PLP 2012 is accrued, the time shall be scheduled by his/her supervisor. When this is not operationally feasible, PLP 2012 shall be used before any other leave except sick leave.

That provision lines up with furlough deals recently accepted by other groups, including state fire fighters and Highway Patrol officers. UAPD is the sixth state employees' union to accept furloughs that will contribute to an estimated $839 million in payroll savings during the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Brown also agreed to create a Contracting Out Committee comprised of four UAPD representatives and four state officials. The "CoCo" will meet at least once every two months with an agenda to curb state job outsourcing.

The state's largest public employees' union, SEIU Local 1000, has been in talks with Brown for two weeks, but hasn't yet announced a furlough agreement.

Click here to open UAPD's summary of the side-letter deal.

June 22, 2012
New problem for Board of Equalization building in Sacramento

Thumbnail image for 110829 BOE HQ.JPGAdd another item to the long list of structural failings that have plagued the Board of Equalization headquarters: corroded pipes.

Department of General Services spokesman Eric Lamoureaux this morning confirmed that pipes in the building are deteriorated. General Services acts as the BOE's landlord.

"At this point it's isolated to waste lines," Lamoureux said, adding that no employee's health has been endangered.

The trouble surfaced on May 4 during the clearing of a clogged drain on the building's sixth floor. The pipe ruptured on the fifth floor, revealing extensive corrosion. Inspectors have since found corroded pipes on floors 7, 14, and 21.

The 24-story HQ at 450 N Street has a long history of structural woes: leaks, mold, burst pipes, unreliable elevators, trace levels of toxic substances and falling exterior glass panels.

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PHOTO: The Board of Equalization building in Sacramento. / Sacramento Bee 2005, Jay Mather

June 12, 2012
SEIU Local 1000 pushes for trade: furloughs for tougher outsourcing rules

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 080811 Jerry Brown.JPGSEIU Local 1000 negotiators resumed bargaining with Gov. Jerry Brown's administration this morning, and are seeking cuts in outsourcing and ending the use of retired annuitants and student employees as conditions to accept a pay reduction.

The union said in a memo to members on its website that negotiators also want "maximum flexibility" for employees to take unpaid time off to meet Brown's goal to cut workers' hours and pay by 5 percent. The governor has suggested achieving the savings by putting state workers into a four-day workweek schedule of 9.5 hours per day, but is open to alternatives.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown / 2010 Sacramento Bee file, Hector Amezcua

June 8, 2012
State employees suggest alternatives to Jerry Brown's four-day-workweek furlough plan

The Association of California State Supervisors is running a poll on its website to gauge the popularity of various alternatives to Gov. Jerry Brown's four-day workweek proposal.

The Brown administration has said it will consider alternatives that accomplish the 5 percent cut in employee compensation costs the governor wants in the 2012-13 state budget, so ACSS asked its members for ideas and then used them for the online poll. The options include:

• Reinstituting the Personal Leave Program.
• Going to a one-day-per-month furlough.
• A five-day workweek with 7.5-hour shifts.
• Closing offices at 3 p.m. on Fridays.
• A 5 percent pay cut, working hours not impacted. (0.8 percent picked that option)
• Letting departments design their own savings plans.

June 4, 2012
From the notebook: More about the union challenge to Corrections' legal services contract

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 editions of The Bee includes a reference to a request for the State Personnel Board to review a $5 million legal services contract between a private law firm and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment filed the request and the board overturned the contract, albeit so late that the law firm will continue its work until the agreement expires on June 30.

Here's the paper trail:

CASE's Feb. 14 request that the State Personnel Board review the contract
CDCR's Mar. 23 response to the request for contract review
CASE's Mar. 30 reply to CDCR's response
The State Personnel Board's decision to disapprove the contract

June 1, 2012
Bill to arm California state hospital cops goes to Senate

AlanBarcelona.jpgA watered-down measure aimed at arming hospital police is now in the state Senate's hands after clearing the Assembly without opposition.

Assembly Bill 2623, authored by Santa Rosa Democratic Assemblyman Michael Allen, cleared the lower chamber on 71-0 vote Thursday.

The measure requires the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Developmental Services to develop a policy for arming state hospital peace officers are working outside the secure area of the hospital.

That's not much different than current law, which leaves it to the departments to decide whether those 800 or so cops can carry a weapon on the job. None do.

May 25, 2012
'Public Employees' Bill of Rights' stalls in Assembly committee

A legislative committee today held back a sweeping measure that would have extended some job protections to rank-and-file state workers and given civil servants explicit preference for work the state needs to have done.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee held the so-called "Public Employees' Bill of Rights" by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento. The committee's action essentially killed the bill, since today is the deadline for the committee to send legislation to the Assembly floor.

Click here for more about Dickinson's Assembly Bill 1655.

May 25, 2012
California supervisors group mobilizing to fight Jerry Brown's 4/9.5 furlough plan

The Association of California State Supervisors, a member-run organization that represents excluded state workers, is girding itself to battle Gov. Jerry Brown's four-day workweek proposal.

"We need to present the Governor and the public with facts. Specifically, we need to show how the reduced workweek will impact California taxpayers," ACSS President Arlene Espinoza said in an email. "This is your chance to fight for your career and you can do it from the comfort of your own desk."

The memo then asks for "historical proof that furloughs don't work" and "educated guesses about how the 4-day workweek won't work."

Click here to read the memo.

May 22, 2012
Poll: Adopt Jerry Brown's workweek plan or return to personal leave program?

Why not just extend the personal leave program?

It's a question that we've heard often in the last week as we sifted through emails from several hundred state workers reacting to Gov. Jerry Brown's 4/9.5 furlough plan to cut their pay by 5 percent through a 2-hours-per-week furlough.

Most of the calls, comments and emails about the policy fall into one of four groups: workers who would love the three-day weekends, workers who think the policy is a betrayal of their contracts, those who hate losing the pay and workers who think the switch would harm state functions.

(As we reported earlier, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office has some issues with Brown's workweek proposal.)

Then there's a fifth camp asking, why not simply return to giving state workers a floating unpaid day off each month? Departments already know how to manage it because of furloughs and the so-called "personal leave program" that was a provision in most of the latest union contracts.

So what do you think?

May 21, 2012
From the notebook: Lessons from Utah's 4-day workweek

notebook-thumb-216x184-9328.jpg

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. (Editor's note, 9:45 a.m.: This post now includes a direct link to the Working 4 Utah audit.)

With Gov. Jerry Brown proposing a four-day workweek for California state workers, our A1 story in today's Bee looks at what happened when Utah became the first state in the nation to try it.

Of course, a significant difference is that Utah didn't cut employee hours. Brown's plan is a 2-hours-per-week furlough.

Two years ago, the Beehive State's legislative auditor general looked at the program's strengths and weaknesses. What follows is the report on the program former GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman launched in 2008. If you can't access the embedded document, click here to download the PDF.
A Performance Audit of the Working 4 Utah Initiative

May 17, 2012
Live chat today at noon will take on Jerry Brown's workweek plan

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for chat logo.jpgWhat does Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to restructure the state workweek mean for state workers and the public?

Is it a good idea or a bad idea? Will it really happen? What about other aspects of his plan to cut costs, like reducing outsourced work and eliminating hiring of retired annuitants?

Join us here at noon today for an hour of your questions and comments during what is sure to be a lively online chat about Brown's version of furloughs. You can even sign up for an email reminder at sacbee.com/live.

May 16, 2012
Darrell Steinberg: SEIU appreciates consultation on furloughs

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 110701 Steinberg Cap Bureau.JPGSenate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, met with reporters today and talked about Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to furlough state workers two hours per week.

Brown's plan also lengthens the state workday to 9.5 hours and shortens the workweek to four days. The changes would reduce employees' hours and pay by 5 percent and save the general fund some $401 million ($839 million all funds).

On cooperation between the unions and the governor to come up with a plan:

Just look at the experience in the Schwarzenegger years. ... When they tried to do it unilaterally, what was the end result? Lawsuits, a lot of uncertainty. The better and best way to accomplish the needed savings is to work with the people affected, and that's already going on."

On SEIU Local 1000's position:

"It would be one thing if SEIU Local 1000 was saying hell no and fighting the governor, but they're not doing that. They're actually appreciating the fact that the administration has reached out to them and that they are being brought in."

On the impact to his district and his assessment of the governor's moves:

"It's certainly hard on a lot of my constituents, The process by which the administration is trying to get to that goal, the money goal, I think has been very constructive so far."

On how the issue will play for the November election:

"You want to go into November with as much solidarity as possible."

PHOTO: Darrell Steinberg / 2011 Sacramento Bee file, Hector Amezcua

May 16, 2012
Poll: Should unionized California state workers get a vote on Jerry Brown's furlough plan?

As our story in today's Bee notes, it's not clear whether rank-and-file state workers will be able to vote on any scheduling changes or other concessions that their representatives bargain to reach the payroll savings target in Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal.

Brown wants unions to take a 5-percent pay reduction with a commensurate cut in work hours each month to trim $401 million from the general fund's employee costs and $839 million from all funds in fiscal 2012-13. The governor's plan includes putting most employees on a 4-day, 9.5 hours-per-day workweek.

State law doesn't require a membership vote if a union reaches a side agreement with Brown. The associations' various bylaws, practices and processes determine whether they would issue ballots. Some union leaders also could seek guidance by surveying their members without a formal vote.

May 8, 2012
Ceremonies coincide with Public Service Recognition Week

120508 RP MEMORIAL GINIEWICZ.JPGMay 6 to May 12 marks the 28th Public Service Recognition Week to honor those who serve our nation at all levels of government.

Around the country, government officials are issuing proclamations; hosting award ceremonies and hosting tribute ceremonies highlighting public service and sacrifice.

In California, officials on Monday remembered 1,500 state, county and local peace officers who have died in the line of duty. This morning, the California Highway Patrol is observing its annual memorial for fallen officers at the department's West Sacramento academy.

Caltrans workers killed on the job have been remembered at events around the state in the last few weeks. Tomorrow, the department will recall their sacrifice at a Captol Park memorial at the west steps. Three Caltrans employees died from injuries suffered at work last year.

Click here for more information about Public Service Recognition Week.

PHOTO: Barbara Swager of Pasa Robles, ex-wife of Signal Hill police officer Anthony Giniewicz, prepares to lay flowers at Monday's Peace Officers' Memorial Ceremony. Her sons, Lt. John Peters, left, of the Grover Beach Police Department and Anthony Giniewicz accompany her. Officer Giniewicz died December 7, 2011 from complications from a shooting in 1985. / Randy Pench, Sacramento Bee.

May 4, 2012
Reader of State Worker furlough column defines 'fair'

Reader Linda Clark emailed her reaction to Thursday's State Worker column about whether it's fair for several hundred California government employees in five departments to be paid the wages they lost to furloughs.

With Clark's permission, we're posting her email here, unedited:

April 30, 2012
Read the report: Preventable diseases cost CalPERS millions of dollars

A new study says that CalPERS could have saved between $18 million and $54 million in 2008 health care costs if more of the fund's members warded off common diseases such as diabetes and hypertension with diet and exercise.

Talk show host and health advocate Dr. Mehmet Oz, SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker, Controller John Chiang and Treasurer Bill Lockyer will unveil the Urban Institute study and a new pilot program to promote wellness at a 1:30 p.m. press event at the California Museum.

Researchers looked at the health records of nearly 556,000 state employees and their dependents who are covered by one of nine CalPERS health plans.

Click here for a short item in today's Bee with more details about the study, which is posted below.

Potential Savings Through Prevention of Avoidable Chronic Illness Among CalPERS State Active Members

April 27, 2012
Dr. Oz to promote state worker health in Sacramento next week

120427 Oz _Baer_2010.JPGTV host Dr. Mehmet Oz is among the speakers scheduled for a Monday press conference to unveil a new report on state workers' health and to promote a pilot state workplace wellness program.

Oz, whose self-titled show is among the most popular in day-time talk, will join SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Controller John Chiang and others. They'll talk about the health study commissioned by Chiang's office, which looks at state active members in CalPERS, and explain the launch of the wellness initiative.

The news conference is one of several Sacramento appearances for Oz next week. It starts at 1:30 p.m. in the courtyard of the California Museum at 1020 O St. in Sacramento. The state is hosting the news conference in partnership with The California Endowment and HealthCorps, the nonprofit organization founded by Oz and his wife, Lisa Oz, to fight childhood obesity.

PHOTO: Dr. Mehmet Oz / Sacramento Bee 2010 file, Brian Baer

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 5, 2012
Column Extra Poll: Government's call to 'customer' service

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

Our column in today's fiber/cyber Bee examines the notion that government has "customers." Click here to view the section of the 2004 California Performance Review we referenced today, titled "Putting Californians First -- Creating a Customer Service Framework."

Read the column, check out the report and then take our poll:

April 4, 2012
More mold found at California Board of Equalization HQ

JM FALLING GLASS BOE BLDG.JPGWorkers at the state Board of Equalization's Sacramento headquarters found mold between the building's ninth and 10th floors last month, although this time the discovery didn't displace any staff.

BOE spokesman Jaime Garza said in an email that "the area was immediately closed, the mold was removed, and Hygiene Technologies conducted testing which concluded the air was safe and clean."

Hygiene Technologies is the company contracted by the boardto handle air quality tests at the 24-story building at 450 N St.

While conducting some unrelated repairs on the building on Mar. 24, DGS staff and Hygiene Technologies employees came across the mold in a space above an empty storage area on the ninth floor. The company removed the mold last weekend.

The BOE has a long history of problems that have cost the state millions to repair and clean up, including water pipe leaks, mold, malfunctioning elevators and faulty windows. Earlier this year a glass panel fell eight floors and shattered on the sidewalk after it popped loose from the east side of the building. No one was injured.

Correction, 5:54 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Hygiene Technologies was contracted by the Department of General Services.

PHOTO: The Board of Equalization headquarters / 2005 Sacramento Bee file, Jay Mather

March 30, 2012
Poll: How much does money matter?

A reader called on Thursday to strongly disagree with this week's State Worker column, which looked at a bill that would cap state pay at what the governor earns, currently about $174,000 per year.

The column suggested that the cap idea doesn't acknowledge key differences between what motivates people to aspire to the executive and what motivates them to become, say, a state university president, CalPERS investment manager or a nuclear physicist.

The caller contended that the state doesn't need to compete for talented individuals to run departments, conduct nuclear research, manage investments or to perform other high-level, high-skill jobs. Public service and love of the work, he said, is a reward in itself. Plenty of competent folks would line up for jobs that he said currently overpay incumbents.

And anyone who passed on a job because they wanted more money? "The state doesn't need them," the caller said.

What do you think? How much should money matter to public servants? Do some care about it less than others? Take our poll and leave your comments:


March 29, 2012
State workers 'Bill of Rights' clears first legislative hurdle

The so-called "Public Employees Bill of Rights," Assembly Bill 1655 has cleared its first legislative committee review.

The six-member Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security passed the measure 4-1 on Wednesday. Democratic Assemblymembers Warren Furutani, Michael Allen, Bob Wieckowski and Fiona Ma voted for it. Republican Allan Mansoor voted against it. Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, did not vote.

The measure, which strengthens California state employee job protections and sets new workload standards, now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. No hearing date has been scheduled yet.

Related posts:

Committee hears pro and con of 'Public Employees Bill of Rights'
State government contracting debate back at California's Capitol
Assembly Bill 1655

March 28, 2012
Committee hears pro and con of 'Public Employees Bill of Rights'

Thumbnail image for 110304 Dickinson Randal Benton 2010.JPGIt looks like the so-called "Public Employees Bill of Rights" is on the way to clearing its first legislative hurdle after the Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security listened to brief arguments for and against the measure and then voted 3-1 in favor of the measure.

Because it needs one more "aye" from the six-member panel to pass, the bill was placed "on call" until the two absent members could vote.

Democratic Assemblymembers Warren Furutani, Michael Allen and Fiona Ma supported the bill. Republican Allan Mansoor opposed. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont and Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, were not present.

Assembly Bill 1655, written by Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson of Sacramento, which would give rank-and-file state workers explicit preference over outside contractors for state work, shorten the period employers would have to discipline employees and guarantee protections against increased workloads brought on by furloughs or layoffs.

The measure has several other employee protections extended to other state employees, Dickinson said this morning, and that much of the bill is already standard practice or contained in labor contracts.

"But those can change," Dickinson said, whereas his bill would take "basic items and codify them."

Several labor groups voiced support, including representatives from SEIU Local 1000, AFSC ME and associations representing state attorneys, physicians, dentists and state university workers.

All suggested that the bill would save the state money and provide much-needed protections to employees.

Jennifer Barrera of the California Chamber of Commerce said the Dickinson bill would "disadvantage the private sector" in competing for state work and the measure has ambiguous language regarding employee workloads and quotas that could trigger litigation or drive up the state's employee costs to avoid lawsuits.

"We disagree this would be a cost-saving measure," Barrera said.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Roger Dickinson / Sacramento Bee file 2010, Randall Benton

March 27, 2012
Wednesday hearing set for California 'Public Employees Bill of Rights'

The Assembly Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee will consider Assembly Bill 1655, also known as the "Public Employee Bill of Rights," at a hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday.

The measure gained a bit of attention when Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, introduced it last month. The measure would extend some job protections to rank-and-file state workers that are already afforded public safety employees, plus gives civil servants explicit preference for work the state needs to have done.

Dickinson has tweaked the bill's language a bit.

A provision to shorten the statute of limitations for employers to press disciplinary action against a employee has been changed from one year to one year from the discovery of an alleged offense.

The first version of the legislation gave rank-and-file state employees first dibs on state work ahead of excluded employees and outside contractors. The revision strikes the reference to excluded employees.

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

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

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

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

March 15, 2012
Column Extra: Read the judge's rejected ruling in the James Ward complaint against CDCR

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 examines the dispute between James Ward, who worked as chief dentist at Ironwood State Prison until July 2009, and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Ward says he accepted in good faith a permanent position that was illegally voided when the state said the job was really temporary and eventually let him go.

The department says its employees were mistaken when they assured Ward the job was permanent. Returning him to a permanent state job now would bind departments to the erroneous actions of their lowest-level staff and managers, CDCR lawyers have argued.

SPB Judge Jeanne Wolfe heard arguments in the case and issued a decision last September in favor of Ward. As is its prerogative, the board rejected Wolfe's ruling and heard the case for itself last month. We expect a ruling within a few weeks.

Here's Wolfe's decision, which includes many more details about the matter than we could jam into our column:
James Ward v. CDCR

March 2, 2012
Atascadero State Hospital statistics detail assaults on patients, staff; facility fined for unsafe conditions

Report details assaults over past year at Atascadero State Hospital
In the first four months of 2011, more than 100 patients and staff members were assaulted at Atascadero State Hospital each month. But a report released to KSBY Wednesday shows the number of attacks is actually decreasing since the beginning of last year. (KSBY)

Atascadero State Hospital fined for safety violations
State safety investigators Thursday issued three citations totaling $38,555 against Atascadero State Hospital for unsafe working conditions for staff treating the facility's mentally ill and violent offenders. (San Luis Obispo Tribune)

February 28, 2012
State Compensation Insurance Fund OKs staff bonus program

Despite an unprecedented downsizing that has cut jobs and emptied out agency offices around California, the State Compensation Insurance Fund's board of directors has OK'd a new incentive bonus program for employees.

It's not clear how much this will cost State Fund, a quasi-private state agency that provides workers' compensation insurance to businesses, but employees could receive up to 10 percent of their base pay depending on how well they perform. None of the bonus money would come from tax dollars, since State Fund operates solely on policyholders' premiums and investments.

The board approved the Performance Award Program on Feb. 17, about seven weeks after 971 employees in danger of layoffs took an unprecedented severance package that paid them to leave by the end of last year and give up their preferential rights to other state government jobs. The so-called "transition packages" cost State Fund about $30 million.

Even after those employees left, another 700 fund jobs remained on the chopping block as part of a multiyear plan to save $200 million by axing outdated jobs, shuttering offices and consolidating operations.

We asked fund spokeswoman Jennifer Vargen how the new employee bonus program lined up with the agency's push to cut costs. She responded by forwarding an email to staff that explains the program as "an appropriate investment in strengthening and accelerating our transition to a performance-based culture." (Click here to read the entire email.)

The bonuses are contingent on negotiations with union representatives, according to the State Fund staff memo. Here's the board's agenda item concerning the new bonus program:
State Compensation Insurance Fund bonus item on BOD's Feb. 17 agenda

February 28, 2012
Internal memo leaks name of Jerry Brown's next personnel director

Thumbnail image for 101022 mail image.jpg3:04 p.m.: Updated with further comments from Ron Yank.

According to an internal email to Department of Personnel Administration staff, Julie Chapman will replace Ron Yank as DPA director.

The source of the memo obtained by The Bee and verified by DPA: Yank himself.

February 14, 2012
Two California agencies extend furlough back pay to all staff

Thumbnail image for 120214 Cal PIA logo.JPGThe California Prison Industry Authority and the First 5 California Commission will pay furlough back wages to all their employees.

The decision extends the terms of recent court settlements with two unions to excluded workers and other employees -- except the PIA's top executive and state engineers and scientists whose labor groups are pressing furlough litigation.

It's not yet clear when the State Controller's Office will issue the checks or exactly how many current and former employees will receive money. The payments won't affect the state's general fund budget since both agencies are fiscally independent of it.

The PIA employs about 570 workers who run inmate training programs. Officials figure the back pay will cost about $7.9 million of the $8.6 million the PIA set aside last year in anticipation of a settlement. (The payments won't include the interest that authority officials anticipated when they allocated the money.)

The agency doesn't yet have a specific count for how many people will receive back pay, spokesman Eric Reslock said, since some furloughed staff have since retired or left for other jobs and some current employees started work at the agency after furloughs ended last spring.

First 5 employs 35 staff. Spokeswoman Susan Hyman said that 50 current and former employees will receive payments. The agency, which administers services for children up to age 5, hasn't yet estimated what the furlough back pay will cost.

A few PIA workers are excluded from the deal. The authority's board will need to approve back pay for General Manager Charles Pattillo, Reslock said. A handful of staff represented by California Professional Engineers in California Government or California Association of Professional Scientists won't get the back pay, either, because their unions are pressing furlough litigation.

First 5 and the PIA are two of five so-called "off-budget" state agencies that recently settled furlough litigation with SEIU Local 1000 and California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment.

The settlements obligate the PIA, First 5, the California Earthquake Authority, the California Housing Finance Agency and the California State Lottery to pay back wages only to staff covered by the two unions. In exchange, Local 1000 and CASE have dropped their furlough lawsuits against the state.

Gov. Jerry Brown's administration has left it up to the five off-budget agencies whether to extend back wage payments to non-union workers. The State Worker has left messages with officials at the other three to find out whether they intend to pay back wages to all their employees.

PHOTO CREDIT: Image courtesy of California Prison Industry Authority.

February 13, 2012
California lawmaker writes 'Public Employees Bill of Rights'

Thumbnail image for 110304 Dickinson Randal Benton 2010.JPGAssemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento,(right) has introduced legislation that would give unionized state workers more workplace discipline protections and first dibs on state government work.

SEIU Local 1000 and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists support AB 1655, the "Public Employees Bill of Rights Act." Here's what it would do:

January 26, 2012
Fire Department called for fumes at DMV headquarters

Diesel exhaust from a construction lift forced officials to evacuate a part of the Department of Motor Vehicles headquarters in Sacramento this morning. Two employees went to the hospital after breathing in the fumes. The Bee's Bill Lindelof has the story here.

January 24, 2012
State Fund pays out $30 million; 705 jobs still on chopping block

State Compensation Insurance Fund has paid $30 million to 971 state employees who agreed to leave the agency by Dec. 31 and give up their preferential rights to other state government jobs.

The exit payments averaged nearly $31,000 per departing employee in addition to any leave time they cashed out. The money went to staff members in danger of layoff who accepted the so-called "transition package" under terms negotiated by the quasi-public agency and Service Employees International Union Local 1000. It was the first time that state workers whose jobs were in danger received extra money to leave.

The quasi-public State Fund, which competes with private-sector workers compensation insurance carriers and receives no tax dollars, has been downsizing for a couple of years in response to its shrinking market share. About 1,800 employees in 26 job classifications slated for elimination could have taken the deal at an estimated cost of up to $50 million to State Fund.

On a related note, State Fund spokeswoman Jennifer Vargen forwarded a revised layoff list (embedded below) that shows that 705 jobs are still on the chopping block after the voluntary departures have been figured in.

(The "auth." column shows how many jobs the fund has authorized to keep. The "final potential layoff" column shows how many jobs will be cut. Adding the two columns together indicates how many positions currently exist.)

The biggest cuts are planned for Los Angeles County (181 jobs), Alameda County (143) and Orange County (86). Sacramento County stands to lose 36 jobs and San Joaquin County is facing a loss of 28 positions.
120123 SCIF Layoffs by Class and County

January 20, 2012
California's DPA launches new personnel management guide

The Department of Personnel Administration has published a new "performance management guide." The department wants managers, supervisors, executives and other non-rank-and-file employees to use it to develop their leadership and build teamwork.

Click here to watch a brief video by DPA Chief Deputy Director Howard Schwartz.

Here's the 45-page guide. Do you think this is helpful? Will managers and supervisors use it? Do materials like this help make the state a better employer?
120120 DPA PMG

January 11, 2012
Glass falls from Board of Equalization HQ in Sacramento

glass 1.JPGA piece of decorative glass popped loose from the east side of the Board of Equalization headquarters this morning, falling eight floors and shattering on the sidewalk below. No one was injured.

The incident occured at 10:30 a.m., prompting police and firefighters to cordon off the sidewalk along the Fifth Street side of the 24-story building.

An hour later, officials closed off the street to pedestrians and traffic between N and O streets.

The glass panel fell from between the eighth and ninth floors of the 24-story building at 450 N St., said board spokesman Jaime Garza.

"No employees work there," Garza said, referring to the fact that the eighth floor is vacant right now.

The Department of General Services, which leases the building to BOE and is on the hook for fixing the problem, is investigating why the glass fell.

glass.JPGDGS has plenty of experience. Between 1999 and 2005, seven windows with faulty seals leaked water and fell to the street below. The department spent $15 million to fix the window system and millions of dollars more to remediate toxic mold, repair burst plumbing and fix faulty elevators.

BOE has said it wants to move, but legislation aimed at accomplishing that has stalled. SEIU Local 1000 recently organized an email campaign by rank-and-file BOE employees to raise awareness about the building's workplace hazards.

PHOTOS: The east side of the Board of Equalization Headquarters at 11 a.m. today (above) and a closeup shot of the spot between the eighth and ninth floors where a glass panel popped loose and fell to the sidewalk below. / Jon Ortiz, Sacramento Bee

January 9, 2012
California bill would give protection to legislative whistleblowers

Thumbnail image for 110413 Portantino.jpgAssemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) has introduced a measure that would give employees in the Legislature the same protections afforded other state workers when they report waste, fraud and abuse.

Assembly Bill 1378 would require the Assembly and Senate Rules committees to designate an officer to receive written complaints that the state auditor would investigate. Anyone found guilty of retaliation against a legislative employee would face fines up to $10,000 and a year in county jail.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee will hear the whistleblower bill Tuesday at its 9 a.m. session.

December 16, 2011
Read the Personnel Board decision that saved Duane Wiles' job

111216 Wiles.JPGOur story in today's Bee details how Caltrans fired technician Duane Wiles 12 years ago for abusing a state credit card and using a state cellphone to make personal calls. The State Personnel Board in 1999 decided most of the charges weren't proven and the one that was didn't merit termination. It affirmed that decision in 2000 and told Caltrans to give Wiles his job back and pay back wages and benefits less a 30 calendar-day suspension without pay.

Wiles is the technician who violated key procedures while testing support structures for the new Bay Bridge span in 2006 and 2007 and falsified records on other transportation projects in 2008.

After The Bee reported the Bay Bridge matter, Caltrans announced that Wiles and his supervisor were fired. Wiles is appealing his latest termination to the SPB.

The State Personnel Board's 2000 decision regarding Duane Wiles' termination

PHOTO: Duane Wiles / courtesy Caltrans

December 5, 2011
State Compensation Insurance Fund: RAND idea; the boss's pay

Thumbnail image for 100727 rowe.JPGAs the quasi-public State Compensation Insurance Fund continues its plan to downsize, several of its employees have contacted The State Worker to point out a section of a 2009 RAND Institute for Civil Justice study that recommends reducing the number of the fund's permanent staff to remove incentives for it to maintain market share to justify State Fund's staffing.

Here's the pertinent paragraph from "California's Volatile Workers' Compensation Insurance Market: Problems and Recommendations for Change," by Lloyd Dixon, James W. Macdonald, William Barbagallo.

November 21, 2011
Poll: Washington audit finds state paid for unused cellphones

Washington state's auditor says that nearly 6,700 state-issued cellphones that cost the government $1.8 million -- nearly a third of those reviewed -- were used infrequently or not at all during a study that ran from March 2010 through February of this year. Of those, a third weren't used one time during the audit period, reported Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag, but the state still paid more than $533,000 for them.

The Washington audit, which you can read here, echoes a similar study of California's state cellphones that found about 25 percent of the 54,000 wireless lines tracked in December 2010 weren't used -- but still cost the government more than $300,000.

Those finding supported Gov. Jerry Brown's February order to cut the government's cellphone inventory in half by June 1 of this year.

Departments turned in about 29,000 of 67,000 cellphones covered by Brown's order, with thousands more still under review as of the deadline, the administration said at the time.

Prompted by the Washington audit, we're curious about the impact to California state workers of the state's cellphone slim-down nearly six months later:

November 19, 2011
From the notebook: More about the State Fund severance deal

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.

Want to dig more deeply into State Compensation Insurance Fund's agreement to pay up to $50 million in severance packages to exiting employees? Here you go:

The agreement between State Fund and SEIU Local 1000

The contract between State Fund and the "legally uninsured Departments of the State of California."

• The Nov. 9 SEIU Local 1000 "Union Update" flyer that explains how some employees at State Fund moved to avoid a layoff and then found out their jobs were in jeopardy anyway.

Our Oct. 9 story about State Fund layoffs.

November 14, 2011
Dave's Deli in EDD building to close next month

111114 salisbury-thumb-260x348-21509.jpgDave's Deli, the cafeteria serving the Employment Development Department building in Downtown Sacramento, is closing at the end of this year.

Although the announcement followed a 1-out-of-5-sporks rating by our weekly state building eatery review, The Dish, we hear that the closure has been planned for quite some time.

Here's the pertinent part of a memo issued this morning to EDD staff:

The EDD Central Office is one of the few state buildings where an operating cafeteria has been available to staff for many years. David Moore, the current Department of Rehabilitation Business Enterprise Program (BEP) vendor, has been operating the cafeteria for the past seven years and has made the difficult decision to terminate his contract with BEP. Therefore, the EDD cafeteria will be closed effective December 30, 2011.

The Department of General Services and BEP are working closely to hire a new vendor but until further notice, the anticipated date for closure is the end of the year. This date could be sooner if product and workforce deplete to a level below the ability to maintain satisfactory service.

The snack shacks at the 722 and 800 Capitol Mall lobbies will continue business as usual.



PHOTO: Salisbury steak with side dishes recently purchased at Dave's Deli. Dan Smith / Sacramento Bee

October 21, 2011
Board of Equalization employee: 'I deserve to be treated better'

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 110829 BOE HQ.JPGThis blog has been following the problems with water, mold, falling glass, toxics and malfunctioning elevators at the Board of Equalization headquarters in Sacramento for quite some time.

The Department of General Services, which acts as the landlord of the 450 N St. property, has poured millions of dollars into the building and has said that the fixes would bring the space up to standards.

Still, the five-member board, BOE Executive Director Kristine Cazadd and many of the 2,900 staff who work in the building think it's time to move. Here's an email from one of them, BOE employee Annie Mac. We're publishing her words, unedited and with her permission:



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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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