EDD workers picket in protest of salary cuts

As if the state unemployment office didn’t have enough to worry about: Now it’s own workers are protesting their pay cuts.

About 200 state government employees at the Employment Development Department (EDD) picketed the EDD headquarters Wednesday to protest the Schwarzenegger administration’s refusal to block the employees’ pay cuts, even though the money used to pay the salaries comes from federal, not state, funds.

“The state general fund does not get one dime from this salary reduction,” noted a written statement distributed by EDD workers.

Gov. Schwarzenegger, in a series of executive orders, has ordered state workers to take three unpaid Fridays off each month through the middle of next year to save the state money. The furloughs, about 36 unpaid days a year, amount to about a 14 percent pay cut.

But the EDD payroll is met largely through federal funds, not the state’s General Fund, which is the main repository of state income and corporation taxes. The General Fund has been battered by California’s recession, and lawmakers and the governor struggled for months to cover a $26 billion shortage. The deficit was caused mainly by the decline in tax revenues stemming from rising unemployment and increased costs of social services.

“States do not save money by furloughing employees from federally funded positions,” U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis – a former California legislator – said recently.

EDD Director Patrick Henning on June 24 sought state funding to cover part of the reduction. That request for a 10 percent differential was turned down by the Schwarzenegger administration.

Henning’s intention was to “make up the difference for the furlough since the department is losing well-qualified staff over this salary reduction and due to surplus funds caused by the furlough that can’t be used by the State Treasury,” the EDD workers said.

The protest was intended to “make the public aware that the Governor is deliberately hurting the staff that are assisting those who are unemployed and in financial need by substantially reducing their salaries, which has no effect on the State Treasury whatsoever,” the workers added.

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