This editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee.
In his inaugural speech, President Barack Obama talked about the need for self-sacrifice to help America recover from recession and regain its stature in the world.
This self-sacrifice, the president said, is embodied by soldiers serving overseas and by firefighters who storm a stairway full of smoke. It is also exhibited by "the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job."
With this one line, Obama seemed to be talking directly to the situation California state employees face as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seeks ways to reduce state payroll.
For nearly three months, Schwarzenegger has called on state employees to accept furloughs as an alternative to layoffs and as part of larger package of spending cuts and revenue increases.
First, the governor proposed one-day-a-month furloughs, but state employee unions balked and Democrats refused to legislate it. As the state's finances worsened, the governor used his executive authority to order two-day-a-month furloughs, which prompted a lawsuit from the unions.
We agree with state employees that two unpaid days a month is excessive. The state would effectively be reducing employee pay by 9 percent – an especially tough cut for workers at the lower rungs of the wage scale.
On the other hand, by refusing to let lawmakers legislate one-day furloughs, and by using the courts to try to block the governor's executive order, state employee unions are creating the impression they'd prefer layoffs to furloughs. This is hardly the kind of selflessness preached by Obama.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.