State workers confused over Columbus Day

SACRAMENTO, CA If you think the Department of Motor Vehicles is already a mess because the three furlough days a month have created longer lines, wait until Monday.

State workers don't know whether to show up for work because they normally have Columbus Day off as a paid holiday, but it was one of two days taken away earlier this year as part of budget cuts.

"State law now dictates 12 paid holidays a year for state workers, not 14. That's the law and that's what we're going to follow," says Aaron McLear, the governor's press secretary.

But the state's largest public employee union, SEIU Local 1000, representing almost 100,000 workers, has been telling workers to enjoy their day off. Union leaders say the Legislature never ratified their new contract, which took away Columbus Day. Therefore, the old contract is in effect.

"This is a holiday that's in our contract, and we're going to treat it like every other holiday that is in our contract," says SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker.

That message forced the administration to fire off a terse letter to the union warning them that "SEIU is advocating an illegal job action and the absence will be considered AWOL."

The governor's office says consequences could include suspensions and terminations, but many state workers are talking about taking the holiday anyway.

"We've taken enough abuse from the government. They've already taken three furlough days. We have to take a stand some time," says Paula Hayes, a DMV worker.

There was little sympathy for workers at one DMV where people are typically waiting two hours, if not more, and never got Columbus Day off.

"A lot of people need jobs right now. They don't want to work. They should give it to one that needs it," says Don Ross, a DMV customer.

Some workers see Monday as a test of their union's clout. Mass absences could create chaos in some departments or agencies by not having enough employees to even open.

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