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"It's No Longer a Secure Place to Work": Working People Speak Out on Attacks on Public Employees

California's state deficit led to furloughs for already-crunched workers--two of them share their stories of how anti-worker propaganda causes real problems.

California is really something to watch. With its braggers. It’s a state of contradictions. Its history of gallant actor governors.  Actors, that lived on in their constituents' minds and hearts as cowboys and avengers.  The whole while telling us ‘California! Come to California!’ With its six million residents that had incomes below the federal poverty line.  California, where one in five residents lacked health insurance in 2010.  California, whose Preamble to its constitution states “ We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, …” (Which of course does not apply to the 1,404,053 persons under the jurisdiction of state prison authorities, across the state of California.)

One thing California might have gotten a clue about is furloughs for public workers. Furloughs are basically forced days off. Imagine this:  It’s a bright Friday morning. Payday. You make plans with some friends to hang after work. Grab your coffee. Your breakfast bar.  And you go to work. The boss says the company is having some financial problems and he can no longer afford you every other Friday.  

That’s not too bad, you think. Free day for you. Do some laundry.  Buy some cat litter.  Grocery shopping.  Errands are always better during the week. Until your check comes.  WHOA Waitasecond.

That’s exactly what happened in California. State workers were forced to sacrifice every other paid Friday of work to help balance the state budget. The state workers furlough officially ended October 2010 but now we are still suffering from a $26 billion deficit. Local governments are now considering furloughs as a solution. Some of my coworkers are even forced to take their children to work because the schools are closed down every other Friday.

Didn’t we learn our lesson? There’s this strange rationale swooping around that if funding were reallocated and controlled by local government that would solve the problem.  I’m no economist but a redistribution of a $26 billion deficit still equates to a $26 billion deficit, doesn’t it?

I recently caught up with a couple of state workers to ask them what they thought about the furloughs and their effect on the economy.


Wendy Parker A.K.A. Pepper:

I worked for the Department of Motor Vehicles. I remember feeling I made my parents proud when I first got the job almost 10 years ago.  I know it was a means to an end.  I would never be where I am now if it wasn't for being a state employee.  

It was a very low paid job. I brought home $1700 a month during the furloughs, after taxes. We got paid only once a month. I wish I was living paycheck to paycheck.  I was living 2/3rds of the way to the next paycheck is more like it.

I feed 5 mouths besides mine. My partner who is not able to work as she has a very rare disease called Huntington's disease. She gets a small monthly bill that basically covers the cost of her medication. We have her live-in home health care worker, who also is my dogs’ nanny as I travel all over California for my job. He only makes $400 a month taking care of her, so I get to buy his food, pay his bills and give him a place to live.  Then I have my three dogs, who are like children to me. 

There should have been a more "fair" way to do them. Perhaps everyone in the State of California could have given up 5% instead of a few of us giving up 15%.  I certainly prefer furloughs to layoffs.  But, we are now suffering that as well.  I wish I knew our money helped the state. Seems like it was all in vain.  Some departments were forced to work overtime to make up for the loss of work by fellow furloughed employees. Our department actually closed down. Which is totally strange that it would be on a Friday.  When we get paid at the DMV, and I'm guessing all State Agencies are the same, we have to wait until 3pm on payday, so the state can collect an extra day of interest.  Strange idea on how to save money for the state.

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