State union to stop furloughs in court?

SACRAMENTO The Service Employees Union Local 1000 filed a complaint with the Public Employment Relations Board accusing Governor Schwarzenegger of unfair labor practices when he ordered the furloughs on Friday.

The largest state employee union had been trying to negotiate a new contract with the Governor since the summer. They now say he had no intention of listening to their demands.

The furloughs are to go into effect on Feb. 1.

"We think he stalled so that he could declare an emergency and then basically force all the unions to accept his proposals without any negotiations," said J. Felix De La Torre, SEIU Local 1000 Attorney.

The state engineers union took a different tactic by going to court. Their lawsuit contends the governor had no authority to force state workers to take two days of unpaid leave per month. The move amounts to about a 10-percent pay cut.

"He and his departments cannot change people's pay. They can bargain it; they can go to the bargaining table and negotiate some sort of an agreement. The law also says employees work a 40-hour week," said Bruce Blanning, Professional Engineers in California Government.

It is the 47th day of the budget impasse with the deficit now topping more than $7 billion. The chambers in Sacramento remain empty, which may be a sign that a budget solution isn't close.

While criticizing lawmakers for the gridlock, the governor said he didn't want to order state worker furloughs. But without a budget compromise, he has to keep expenses down.

"They are hard working people who have to provide for their families. But we are running out of cash by February. So I have no other choice," said Gov. Schwarzenegger.

In another ominous sign of the state's dire financial situation, State Controller John Chiang sent a letter to leaders saying California will run out of money in less than 70 days.

In the letter, Chiang said, "... We are literally weeks away from a meltdown of state government."

That meltdown could mean cutting government programs and issuing I.O.U.'s instead of checks.

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