According to the Associated Press, in its unanimous ruling, the court concluded that the state Legislature’s 2009 budget legislation “validated the governor’s furlough program.” The governor’s legal team said the administration was acting within its rights to deal with a budget crisis, while labor attorneys claimed the order violates collective-bargaining law.
State employee unions have been challenging Schwarzenegger’s order since he implemented two-day-a-month furloughs for more than 200,000 state workers in February 2009. He later expanded it to three days a month, which has translated to a pay cut of roughly 14% for government employees, the AP said.
The new order exempts departments that collect revenue, such as the Franchise Tax Board, and provide public safety protection, including the California Highway Patrol. It also exempts about 37,000 workers in six unions that recently reached tentative labor agreements with the Schwarzenegger administration, in which the unions agreed for their members to contribute more of their salaries toward their pension benefits and to take one day of unpaid personal leave a month, the equivalent of a nearly 5% pay cut.
The order prompted the filings of more than two dozen lawsuits, including one by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which said the furloughs may endanger the fund’s ability to provide disability and retirement checks and health care services to employees and beneficiaries (see CalPERS Goes to Court to Escape State Worker Furloughs).The state’s high court consolidated the appeals of several unions, including the Service Employees International Union Local 1000; the California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment; and the Professional Engineers in California Government.