The massive layoff warning is unusual under a Democratic governor. The prison guards' union is one of the most powerful groups in Sacramento, almost always getting what it wants. But a budget crisis and a court order are more powerful.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is churning out 26,000 layoff warning notices by the end of the week. It's the result of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan that began sentencing some low-level inmates this month to county jails instead of state prison. The move aims to relieve overcrowding as the courts ordered and save the state money.
"Ultimately, will we be able to save every single person from being impacted by the layoff? I doubt it," California Corrections Office of Personnel spokesperson Robert Downs said.
Due to labor laws and union contracts, warning notices have to be given at least 120 days in advance of an actual layoff. It gives workers an opportunity to transfer or be demoted.
While the layoffs affect almost every job category, prison guards are likely to be affected the most since they are half of the agency's 65,000 workforce.
It's unclear how many of the 26,000 Corrections workers will ultimately lose their jobs since the inmate shift has never been tried before.
Many workers were reluctant to speak to ABC30 because they thought it could hurt their chances in finding other position, but the prison guards union thinks the move is unreasonable.
"It is very difficult for a lot of folks to relocate; most people are underwater with their homes, to sell a house you can't even get out from under and go drag your kids out of schools and move across the state, it's a big deal," California Correctional Peace Officers Association spokesperson Ryan Sherman said.
Groups pushing to lower prison spending think it's time to spend the $10 billion annual corrections budget on something else.
"We are in a budget crisis; now is the moment in California that we need to really shift our thinking and move the resources into what people really need," Californians for a Responsible Budget spokesperson Emily Harris said.
There could be more waves of layoff warnings.