State Supreme Court hears arguments on governor's power to declare furlough days

Unions say action violates contracts, Legislature's 40-hour work week measure

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's power to furlough state workers for two or three days per month in response to the state's budget crisis was argued before the California Supreme Court in San Francisco Wednesday.

Four lawyers representing employee unions and Controller John Chiang argued that the unpaid days off for 200,000 workers last year violated

union contracts and the Legislature's enactment of a 40-hour work week for state jobs.

Patrick Whalen, a lawyer for a state attorneys' union, told the court the Legislature has given the governor other fiscal emergency powers, but not the authority to order furloughs.

"He can lay off employees to save money, he can negotiate with unions to save money, he can impose travel freezes and he can impose hiring

freezes," Whalen said.

"He has all these options and he chose the only one that is not legal," the attorney argued.

David Tyra, representing Schwarzenegger, countered that the power to order furloughs is within the governor's inherent authority as the state's chief executive.

"The governor possesses the authority from his implied and inherent powers as chief executive officer of California," Tyra said.

The court's seven justices took the case under submission after hearing one and one-half hours of arguments. They now have 90 days to issue a

written ruling.

The cases before the court concern the state's first round of furloughs, in which 200,000 workers were ordered to take unpaid days off at

first two and later three days per month between February 2009 and June 2010.

But the panel's eventual ruling would likely affect the current round of layoffs for 144,000 workers for three days per month, which began in

August. The furloughs amount to a 14 percent pay cut.

Several justices seemed to be searching for a middle ground for upholding the furloughs, suggesting that the Legislature may have ratified the layoffs by passing a budget bill that incorporated the lower salary costs, or that furloughs were a "lesser included" power in the authority to

impose layoffs.

Tyra maintained that Schwarzenegger had the authority to order furloughs even without Legislature's action in the budget bill, while lawyers for the unions and Chiang argued the budget bill did not ratify the furloughs.

If the court rules that the furloughs were illegal, the question of whether workers entitled to back pay of $1 billion or more might be deferred until later.

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Like this comment
Posted by AlexandroA
a resident of California Reflections
on Oct 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm

AlexandroA is a registered user.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been cleared to furlough California state workers. There has been little help for the Governor in the ongoing CA spending budget crises. CA has had several consecutive years of a spending budget shortfall. Schwarzenegger had to turn to a furlough of state workers, but was sued to keep him from doing this. The Supreme Court of California ruled in the governor's favor. He can be enacting further furloughs.

Like this comment
Posted by Of course !
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2010 at 10:27 am

Well, of course !! IF WE, the employers, are struggling on reduced pay, because WE are on furlouighs, it's only logical they can live by the same rules. THEY are NOT ROYALTY, regardless if THEY THINK they are. YES, it may be rough....get over it, deal with it ! That's life....OUR lives !

Like this comment
Posted by Of course !
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2010 at 10:32 am

In recent years, power has concentrated in a new 'political' class. Now they are trying to also make it a 'protected' class.
We better wake up and pay attention...and not forget, WE are the EMPLOYER !

Like this comment
Posted by Really?
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Oh, but how many people in this community don't think its a "real" pay cut when it comes to the teachers of Pleasanton. For "Of course!" its a hardship, but for the teachers who CHOSE to do this to increase revenue in PUSD by $4.5 million, its not real! This time of hoping others will feel the pain as much as you do has got to end!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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