The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

April 22, 2010
State worker says unions should make concessions, rehab image

In a recent e-mail to SEIU Local 1000 leaders and copied to this blog, state worker Paul Warrick laid out a plan that he believes would ease labor tensions and begin to "turn the tide against our negative public image."

We're posting Warrick's e-mail here, unedited and with his permission. We received it prior to Senate Republican Leader Dennis Hollingsworth's introduction of his pension bill, SB 919.

Warrick's e-mail represents his opinion. It shouldn't be interpreted as speaking for his employer, his union or this blog.

For purposes of my argument, there are 2 types of people in CA; state employees and those who resent them. A key component of any prospective politician's campaign for statewide office is to suggest that he or she will go after state employees. That's an automatic vote getter, except for the mitigating fact that it's part of every candidate's campaign.

As I've intimated in prior emails, you won't be able to accomplish much on behalf of state employees unless you can turn the tide against our negative public image. You have to take favorable facts like those published in the Bee's attached editorial (4/19/10) and widely disseminate them. You have to enlighten the public to the fact that state employees are not a significant component of California's budget woes. (except for Corrections of course which is a separate argument)

In conjunction with a massive effort to eradicate the public's negative misconceptions, SEIU needs to make highly publicized concessions to demonstrate a good faith effort to be part of the solution to California's deficit crisis. As the furloughs come to an end and you begin to negotiate a new contract with the governor's office, SEIU should go public with an itemization of the concessions state employees are willing to make. You need to strike first. These are only suggestions:

Click the following link to read the details of Warrick's plan.

1. 5 percent reduction in pay for 2 fiscal years with restoration to current (non furloughed) pay on July 1, 2012.

2. For new employees and employees with less than 5 years service credit, change the current retirement calculation base from the highest 1 year of pay to the highest 3 years. The 1 year calculation is an often abused perk.

3. For new employees, raise the retirement age for the 2 percent calculation from 55 to 58, and publicize your belief that CCPOA, CHP and any other law enforcement officers under state jurisdiction should concede to 2.5 percent at 55 instead of the current, incredibly generous 3 percent at 50. If those changes are ever implemented, the state should use whatever leverage it has to pressure local governments to follow suit.

4. Drop the lawsuit on furlough back pay. I understand the argument that the suit is punitive because the furloughs may have been illegal and resulted in damage to state employees, but we still didn't work those days, and this particular concession could be very popular with the public. Don't lose sight of the fact that thousands of private sector employees lost a lot more than 3 days pay per month. Besides, the state can't afford it, so layoffs may be necessitated if they're ordered to pay that money back. I realize you may see the suit as possible leverage in negotiations, but it makes us look bad.

I'm sure there are other concessions that could be made without significantly eroding the financial security of state employees. It will only benefit SEIU to lengthen this list. Once SEIU goes public with this 2-pronged attack (dispelling the myths about state employees being the problem, and making significant, highly publicized concessions) you'll always have it on record that SEIU 1000 and its members have done everything they reasonably can to help solve the budget crisis.

Paul Warrick
State emloyee

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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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