State's Unions Win Another Court Battle

The state worker furlough situation is getting curiouser and curiouser.

Yesterday Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled that furloughed workers are entitled to back pay due to the furloughs, and ordered the state to “cease and desist the furlough of such employees.”

Roesch is the same judge who ruled in November in favor of California Correctional Peace Officers Association in its furlough lawsuit against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Sacramento Bee has a story on yesterday’s ruling and of the 434 (at press time) comments in the online version, the anger is palpable. The ruling clearly makes state employees celebrate, and private sector employees fume judging by some of the heated and volatile comments.

The debate always seems to be between whether or not particular state agencies are funded via the general fund, or through “special funding” from the federal government.

However, the one argument that everyone seems to miss is where the money comes from. Regardless of how a state agency is funded (general fund or “special” federal funding), is not all of the money provided to every level of government procured via taxes on the citizens?

The Bee reported this from Roesh’s decision: “When the only justification underpinning the furlough of these employees that remains is ‘labor parity,’ the court cannot do otherwise than to conclude that respondents (in the administration) have abused their discretion,” Roesch wrote. On Thursday, Roesch not only settled the question of back pay, he said the judgment applied to all workers in non-general fund departments, not just those represented by the unions that sued.”

The Governor’s office will appeal the ruling. The appeal will stay the order during the ongoing litigation unless unions can persuade the court to lift the stay.

Is there really any question who is driving this bus?

The SEIU had this to say on their website:

“We said all along that the governor’s actions were illegal,” said SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker. “The governor violated the law and, as a result, people lost money…to remedy that violation, you have to give people back the money they lost.” SEIU Local 1000 first filed suit after the governor began the furloughs in February, in response to the state’s $42 billion budget gap.

Judge Roesch’s ruling could affect up to 50,000 employees represented by SEIU who work at agencies that do not rely on the state’s general fund, as well as tens of thousands of workers represented by two other unions, CASE and UAPD.

Aaron McLear, the governor’s spokesman, criticized the ruling but said it wasn’t unexpected. He said 24 cases concerning furloughs have been filed in courts.

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