Pay Cut for Most State Workers to $7.25 ..or Less
As many of you know my husband works for CALTRANS. For the past year, almost all state workers have had mandatory “Furlough Fridays”–they are forced to take unpaid Fridays three times per month. For us, it wasn’t a hardship so much as a joy to have my husband home but for others it sent them spinning into bankruptcy or simply struggling to squeeze out enough to pay the bills. It cut a little more than 1/7 of the average worker’s salary or 13.8% or the equivalent of about 7 weeks of pay per year.
Yesterday, nearly simultaneously, the furloughs were lifted and (what the right hand giveth, the left hand taketh away–with a vengeance) Governor Schwarzenegger ordered all workers to be put on Federal minimum wage–which is seventy-five cents less per hour than California minimum wage. Yes, that is right. California State workers now make less than California minimum wage. Actually, that is not strictly true. Some workers, managers and salaried employees, will be making $455 a week. Others, like some doctors and lawyers, get zip. Yep, the Federal Law mandates that Doctors and lawyers don’t have a minimum wage so they get nothing.
Last fall, the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education put out a policy brief on furloughs that stated, “The reduction in spending will have a multiplier effect in the economies of cities and counties with large numbers of state workers, resulting in a loss of private sector jobs and a potential increase in home foreclosures.” Taking Sacramento County as an example, the furloughs was projected to lose around 4100 private jobs in that area alone. In fact, the brief concluded that “…[d]rawing on standard economic theory and empirical research we find that the furloughs are a particularly inefficient method of addressing the budget deficit.”
I think we are going to find that addressing California’s budget deficit on the backs of state employee’s yet again by reducing their pay to below California minimum wage is also going to be “particularly inefficient.” Humboldt County, for instance, has what the North Coast Journal calls “our relatively high number of local and state government workers.” These public sector jobs support private sector jobs as the public employees spend their salaries. How much are they going to have to spend when their wages are cut so significantly? How many public employees will be forced into foreclosure by these cuts? And how many private sector employees are going to lose jobs and houses as a result?
Hopefully, the budget impasse will be solved before Humboldt County is affected and before too many lives are damaged more.