Furloughs Not Apply to Elected Offices

February 5, 2009 9:30:34 PM PST
The state is scrambling to put the governor's work furlough order into action on Friday. The governor said state employees have to take two days off a month without pay, because of the budget crisis but, there's mass confusion over who is covered by the order and who isn't.

As much as state workers tried to stop the furloughs, they will go on. Reality has sunk in, and now many are worried because taking two days a month off, unpaid, essentially amounts to a 10-percent pay cut.

"I'm going to have to cut cable, probably get rid of my home phone and just use my cell phone. You know, these are some things you initially do," says Roland Becht, a DMV employee.

However, there's some confusion as to which of the 238,000 state employees the Governor's furlough order applies to. At SEIU Local 1000, the largest state worker union, members sorted through dozens of department memos and the Governor's exception list -- still, they can't make sense of it.

"I think it's extremely disruptive. You're going to have mass chaos everywhere, not only for workers, but for the public," says Yvonne Walker, the SEIU Local 1000 president.

What is clear is Californians will see most state offices like the DMV closed. Unemployment centers, though, got a last minute reprieve and will remain open.

Not so clear is whether the furloughs apply to state leaders, so-called constitutional officers, who are elected independent of the governor and control their own budgets. The judge who ruled last week that the furloughs could legally proceed said today those state leaders were not part of the lawsuit to stop this.

What does that exactly mean?

"The court ruled today that the Department of Justice and other constitutional offices like the controller, the treasurer, the lieutenant governor, that these employees are not subject to the furloughs," says Jerry Brown, the California Attorney General.

"They're still part of the executive order. So every first and third Friday of every month, constitutional officers and their employees will be subject to the furloughs," says Aaron McLear, the governor's press secretary.

Some state workers who know for sure the furlough order applies to them, insist they still have a responsibility to serve.

"I'm still coming in, and we're pretty behind right now. We were behind before the furlough started. This is going to push us even further behind," says Stanley Jacobs, a CalTrans engineer.
"But you know you won't get paid for tomorrow?" asked ABC7's Nannette Miranda.
"I understand that," says Jacobs.

For those who do have to come in, like at the unemployment office, have to take their two furlough days off a month on different days. The governor hopes to save a $1.5 billion through June 2010.


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