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Four unions that agreed to slash pensions exempted from order

“I find it wrong for a Governor worth $40 million to be telling a state worker earning $40,000 that you are only worth $7.25 an hour.” – Lace Watkins, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

July 1, 2010 (Sacramento) – State workers won’t be celebrating this holiday weekend. Late today, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the State Controlled to reduce pay for state workers to minimum wage , $7.25 an hour, until the Legislature passes a state budget. The announcement has left thousands of workers worried over how to cover their families’ living expenses with wages slashed to the bone.


“I am disappointed,” said Lace Watkins with Service Employees International Union in San Diego, which organized protests over the cuts yesterday at Department of Motor Vehicle offices in El Cajon and other locations around the County. “Between the furloughs every other Friday (which cost workers 10% of their incomes) and now this, people have to make really tough choices. There are people who will have to choose between making house payments or making car payments.” Some DMV workers are facing pay cuts of two-thirds of their salaries, she said.

Watkins fears that some workers will lose their homes and wind up homeless. “They say most people are a month away from being on the street and all it takes is one disruption,” she observed. “This doesn’t hurt the fat cats. It hurts the working people and those who are being serviced by the state.”

She called on voters to support Proposition 25, the Majority Vote Budget Initiative on the November ballot. That measure would allow the Legislature to pass a budget with a simple majority, as 47 other states already allow, instead of the current two-thirds requirement. It would also freeze legislators’ pay if a budget is not passed by the June 30th deadline imposed by the state’s constitution.

Four unions representing California Highway Patrol officers, firefighters, health and social service professionals, and psychiatric technicians would be exempted from the salary slash, since they recently negotiated an agreement to roll back pension benefits for new hires and increase retirement contributions from all employees.  Those professionals are more highly paid, however, than many of the workers now facing reduction of pay to minimum wage, and could better afford the increase in retirement contributions.


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