Furloughed workers could soon be back on the job


In Oakland, state workers applauded a judge's ruling that would end furloughs for many of them, without knowing whether it will really happen.

"We're all excited about it, but we can't rely on that, we have to wait on Sacramento to let us know our furlough's over," state employee Malloy Serna said.

Judge Frank Roesch's order applies to workers in 68 "special fund" departments, those not financed with general fund dollars.

If held up on appeal, his decision will affect about 75,000 state workers. Most are members of the Service Employees International Union Local 1000.

"I feel good; now I know can finally go back to work five days a week," DMV employee Gwenell Williams said. "To actually be able to work a full week and get a full month's pay will be great."

The major departments affected include the DMV, Caltrans, health care services and employment development.

Roesch deferred a decision on whether the state should immediately pay hundreds of millions of dollars in back wages, pending an appeal from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"We're in a recession and we just have to go and live within our means, so let's just go through this year, the rest of the year, the way we are and then we go and discontinue with the furloughs," Schwarzenegger said.

State employee Joann Baldwin says she too would prefer the furloughs stay in place through the current fiscal year.

"We have a 15 percent pay cut with the furloughs; when we go back to working five days a week, we're still going to have a 10 percent pay cut, but we're going to be working three extra days; to me, the math doesn't work," she said.

Others say the forced days off hurt productivity.

"I'm here to serve the public and not being able to do that and having the cases backed up the way they are because of the furloughs just hurt me personally," state employee Danny Sylvester said.

DMV customer Mary Sturz welcomes better service, but wonders about the cost.

"Of course I have concerns about the California budget, because I don't know where the money's going to come from either," she said.

The next scheduled furlough day is Friday, April 2. The SEIU has told its members to show up for work that day. Schwarzenegger is hoping to get a stay on the order before then.

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