Though California politics has been plagued with corporate and union misdealings, representing state workers is a priority for elected officials. Governor Jerry Brown recently reached out to a handful of public-worker unions last year to push his new tax plan, and now he has some contract issues to deal with.
The governor will speak with union leaders about issues that will directly affect the contracts of more than half of the 350,000 state workers. These negotiations are set to begin at the end of February.
Public-worker unions were heavily involved in backing Gov. Brown's campaign last year. One in particular, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), gave over $4.3 million to the governor's campaign. Tweet at @SEIU: Tweet
The United Domestic Workers of America and Professional Engineers of California also donated $300,000 and $100,000, respectively. These two unions will be involved in negotiations as well.
In the State of the State speech last month, Gov. Brown mentioned lawmakers, business leaders, and countless others, but it was his reference to union agreements that received the most attention. He praised lawmakers for "doing the impossible," though the state still faces major debt.
According to the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, California "pays its employees significantly more than any other state governments." Last year, state worker salaries averaged $70,777, which is $16,000 more than the national average. Tweet it: Tweet
When Gov. Brown met with union leaders in May 2012, he proposed pay cuts for public workers to help reduce a deficit that topped $9 billion. The decision didn't go over well with many workers, but there were not very many additional options on the table.
The Brown administration could have ordered "wholesale layoffs," which would have been a drawn out process and likely would not have produced the savings expected. Furloughs were an option too and Gov. Brown sought to furlough state employee pay repeatedly in response to massive budget gaps.
In his proposed budget last month, however, Governor Brown decided to end these furloughs. According to a LA Times article, these deductions will total anywhere from five to fourteen percent per month for a duration of more than four years.
However, this differs greatly from the executive pay increase in California. Executive branch salaries are estimated to increase nearly ten percent to $15.7 billion starting in July, which will make up eleven percent of all state spending. Share the news: Tweet
The fact that the governor's salary is intended to go up, but state workers' salaries will not is cause for some concern. Ultimately, the union negotiations will determine where the Brown administration stands on state worker salaries.