California State Employees Brace for Cuts, But Union Remains Optimistic

May 19, 2020 Updated: May 19, 2020

California state employees and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are bracing for pay cuts announced by Governor Gavin Newsom on May 14 as part of his revised budget.

Newsom said he’s looking to help cover a $54.3 billion budget shortfall by cutting state worker pay by about 10 percent.

Brian Nash, SEIU communications director told The Epoch Times, “Governor Newsom reached out to us and said we need a 10 percent budget reduction.” But it’s not clear exactly which employees will be affected and to what extent, and it seems the union will have a lot of room to negotiate that.

“This is not an across-the-board directive, so it’s premature to speculate what, if any, cuts will occur,” Nash said via email.

Nash expects these cuts to hurt less than those during the Great Recession, and remains hopeful the union can work with the governor to mitigate impacts.

‘Collaborative Approach’

“The fact that he [Newsom] has taken this collaborative approach with us to come up with a solution is extremely encouraging, and we have already begun working with our bargaining team toward a solution,” Nash said.

“To begin with, given the economic crisis that COVID-19 has created, it was not unexpected that Governor Newsom requested something from us, and we appreciate that he did so without making this an across the board directive.”

During the Great Recession a decade ago, when state employees were furloughed and lost 15 percent of their salaries, the wage cuts deeply impacted not only workers and their families but also local communities and economies, Nash said.

“The 15 percent pay cut, and the devastation it wrought, was unnecessary,” he said. “We could have gone through a process like we’re doing now. Instead, people lost their homes and their ability to provide for their families. This is never an ideal situation to endure, but there is a better way to help the state achieve savings while helping our fellow Californians also remain intact.”

“We appreciate the opportunity we have to work out alternatives as opposed to a very deep, painful cut to the workers we represent.”