The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 8, 2008
From the notebook: SEIU 1000 president talks about possible layoffs

081208 Yvonne Walker.JPgOur report in today's Bee on the aftermath of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's comment last week that he is "almost forced" into layoff employees to stem California's burgeoning expenses is drawing heavy readership and comments. If you missed it, you can read the story by clicking here.

We never get all of what we learn into a news story or column. Fortunately, this blog can give users items of interest from the notebook :

Yvonne Walker, president SEIU Local 1000, 081205. phone interview.

On what the union can do about layoffs: There is process for layoffs. We have it in our contracts. But as a union, we don't get to decide whether the state lays off people. We make sure it's done fairly and try to offer alternatives to doing that. Realistically, we don't have he ability to stop a layoff if it comes.

About California's growing financial crisis: Local 1000 is well aware that there is a crisis. We're ready to weigh in and to try to be part of the solution. But rather than the governor putting all this stuff in the paper (layoff talk) and offering sound bites ... let's sit down and work together to see how we can work this out.

On budget strategy: When I come to a time of crisis, the first thing I look at: What do I have right now that I don't absolutely have to have? How much will cutting it save me? So maybe I go from cable to basic cable. Maybe I stop buying Oscar Mayer and buy (store brand) baloney.

We provide a lot of services... I would expect our governor, the Legislature and department heads to be doing the same thing, looking at what the state does and saying, "This service is nice but it's not a service we can continue right now. But they're not. And they should be holding public forums, getting public input so that they really understand the depth of the crisis.

On how the state is going to solve its money mess: We're not going to come out of this just with cuts. It's going to take a combination of a lot of the things. There are going to have to be cuts. We're going to have to raise taxes. We need to go after federal money. But let's sit down and see how we can work this out.

And we need to have everyone, the unions, the governor and the Legislature conveying the same message. Instead they're talking about cutting work breaks and lunches. We didn't get into this crisis because people eat lunch.

On how state workers are faring: They're just like everybody else out there. State workers are losing their houses. They're making hard choices. They're cutting their budgets.

On the politics of money: This is serious. I think it requires everybody to bring their most serious ideas. This isn't a time for politicians to be politicians. Time for them to be Californians. I can't tell you how angry I am at the Republicans who singed the no-tax pledge.

There are tough choices to be made. Instead, the governor does things like trying to reduce wages to $6.55 (per hour), furloughs ... and now layoffs. These things are more symbolic than substantial. We need more than symbolism.

We (SEIU) are willing to participate in forming a solution. We've been begging t help. But the governor hasn't taken us up on it.

IMAGE: Yvonne Walker / Sacramento Bee

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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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