State Employee Union Sues to Stop Layoffs and Pay Cuts

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One of the unions that represents state workers is suing to stop Governor Schwarzenegger's executive order to lay off 22,000 employees. That order also cut the wages of full-time state employees. Attorneys for workers will try to block that action too. KPCC's Julie Small has more.

Julie Small: An estimated 10,000 temporary, part-time, and seasonal employees have gotten pink slips by now. Union attorneys said the layoffs violate the state constitution.

Brooke Pierman: By executive fiat, the governor laid off thousands of workers, failed to give them notice, failed to look for alternatives to layoffs...

Small: Brooke Pierman represents the Service Employees International Union of 93,000 state workers. She says the governor also failed to provide an appeals process to workers.

Pierman: That's grossly unfair. It violates due process. And just like any of us, these state workers need to pay their bills.

Small: The Service Employees' legal team filed for an injunction in Sacramento Superior Court to stop the layoffs. The attorneys filed a separate complaint with the Public Employee Relations Board to stop the governor from slashing workers' wages to just $6.55 an hour.

Pierman say that violates fair labor laws. If the administrative judge at the board agrees, the governor could be ordered to pay full salaries. The governor's press secretary, Aaron McLear, says they'd appeal that decision – and any decision to reinstate laid-off workers.

Aaron McLear: We're certainly prepared to fight any lawsuit in court, if necessary, to make sure we can meet our obligations.

Small: The governor signed the Executive Order to make sure the state has enough cash to pay its bills. Unless the legislature passes a budget, California will run out of money in September. McLear says the governor's standing on strong legal ground.

McLear: Well, the State Constitution and a California Supreme Court Decision clearly support the governor's action.

Small: The legal merits of Schwarzenegger's executive order are unlikely to get a full hearing in court. By the time the Governor's office appeals any decision, the California legislature should have passed a budget – restoring state workers' pay and their jobs.