A Deal is Never a Deal With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger is holding a gun to the heads of over 300,000 California state employees. He’s salivating at the opportunity to drop state employee pay to federal minimum wage if a budget isn’t enacted by July 31st. He’s also announced that he won’t sign a budget unless it includes worker concessions on their pensions.

That’s right. The federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour, 75 cents below CA’s $8 an hour minimum wage. Sacramento’s economy would come to its knees. Local restaurants, car repair, grocery stores, landlords, banks, would all lose revenue as a result.

Families would face further economic pressure, unable to pay their rent, their mortgages, their credit card bills, their student loans, their car and insurance payment. The crushing impact on families would dig them into a financial hole that they may never be able to crawl out of.

Another misguided, penny-wise, pound-foolish proposal from this Governor. Just like his 3-day a month furlough policy that has cost the state in overtime, caused us to lose out on federal funds, and slowed down economic recovery proposals.

Here’s what Arnold doesn’t want the public to know – after a budget is enacted, state workers will recover their full pay under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. In addition, the state will likely have to pay liquidated damages for violating prompt pay requirements for state employees. All in all, a complete and total loss to the state budget.

So let’s get this straight- the Governor says pass a budget by July 31st, or it’s $7.25 an hour. And that budget better have pension takeaways included. The Governor wants to sidestep the collective bargaining table altogether and waltz his proposals straight into the Legislature. He’s proposed unilateral pay cuts, as well as increases in retirement and pension contributions. The Governor’s legislative demands are proof positive that he’s not interested in bargaining with state employees. Instead, he wants to use the opportunity to beat up on the middle class families who make our state run.

Arnold’s administration reached a tentative agreement with the 95,000 state employees represented by SEIU Local 1000. Their members voted overwhelming for a contract that achieved hundreds of millions of dollars in state savings. Their leaders shook hands with the Governor’s Department of Personnel Administration. And when it came time for the Legislature to ratify their contract, the Governor pulled the rug out from under them.

A deal is never a deal with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Historically, state employees have bargained with Republican and Democrat Administrations, and have always been able to reach a deal. But Arnold’s negotiating style – where he puts his hand out and just when we go in to shake it, he yanks it back – has crushed state employee relations.

The Legislature and all union members must send a clear message to the Governor – get back to doing your job and bargain in good faith with the state’s 21 bargaining units.