Furloughs Take Emotional Toll On State Workers
Thursday, April 1, 2010
California A lot of furloughed state employees thought they’d be back to work Friday. Just a week ago, a court exempted 50,000 state workers from un-paid furlough days. But Governor Schwarzenegger appealed. And earlier this week, another court granted the governor a temporary stay. That means furloughs are back on.
Dianne Bradford has been a state employee for a decade. She investigates Medi-Cal fraud and elder abuse in the San Diego area for the state Department of Health Care Services. Bradford says the on-again, off-again legal decisions about furloughs are taking a toll.
“It’s truly a roller coaster ride to go from being elated about the furloughs ending only to be dashed to hear that they’re back on again. It feels like being dragged through a knot-hole.”
The three unpaid-furlough days amount to a 14 percent pay cut and Bradford says that’s made it impossible for her to keep up with her mortgage payments. She’s in the process of short-selling her home to avoid foreclosure, although she was hoping last week’s decision ending the furloughs would mean she could keep her house.
“But with it back and forth like this, I’m just going to have to continue. I’m a 57-year-old grandmother and you think that you’re going to have a comfortable place for my grandkids to visit me. But I may very well be without a home.”
Renee Lee may also be without a home soon. She’s been a state employee for more than 30 years, working in the call center at the state Franchise Tax Board in Sacramento.
“I was living the American Dream. You know, you buy a house. But with this money coming out of my check, I’m in foreclosure, been there for a year.”
The 53-year-old grandmother thought she was going to be able to retire in two years. Now she’s not sure what the future holds.
“My grandmother raised me, you work hard while you’re young, in your older age you’re supposed to groove through it. But this is not grooving through life. I don’t know what this madness is right now.”
A spokesman for Governor Schwarzenegger says with the state facing a $20 billion budget shortfall everyone, including state workers, must make sacrifices.
With more than two-dozen lawsuits challenging California’s furloughs, the back-and-forth legal battle is likely to continue in the coming weeks. The furloughs are slated to expire at the end of June. But Governor Schwarzenegger may replace them with layoffs instead.