CA Judge Says Governor Can Force Furloughs for State Workers

January 30, 2009 ( - A Sacramento Superior Court judge on Thursday ruled that it was legal for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to force state workers to take two days off a month without pay.

Judge Patrick Marlette rejected arguments by state workers’ unions that Schwarzenegger’s move was illegal and that he did not have the authority to order furloughs. According to the Sacramento Bee, Marlette found the state’s current budget crisis and lack of funds represented an emergency and the governor’s order was “reasonable and necessary under the circumstances.” The state faces a $42 billion budget deficit.

The Associated Press said Marlette also pointed out certain union agreements allow the administration to reduce employee hours if the state runs short of money.

The court ordered state Controller John Chiang to implement the plan which will result in a 10% pay cut for workers, the Bee reported. The furloughs could begin February 6 and will take place every first and third Friday of each month.

The Schwarzenegger administration and the state’s largest employee union, Service Employees International Union, Local 1000, are in the midst of negotiating a new contract.

“We’ve been bargaining continuously with the state for the past week and we hope that we can mitigate this at the bargaining table,” union spokesman Jim Zamora said, according to the Bee. “We think we can help the governor achieve his cost savings goals but also cause minimum disruption to the lives of 95,000 state workers that we represent and continue to provide quality public services.”

Chris Voight, a staff director for the California Association of Professional Scientists, said his organization would almost certainly appeal.