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State, SEIU still at loggerheads as Columbus Day nears

The state office that represents the Schwarzenegger administration in collective bargaining negotiations with public employee unions says the state’s largest Local has distorted the issues around the state’s decision to require employees to work on Columbus Day. The union, meanwhile, says Columbus Day is a legal day off because the holiday is included in the union’s pact with the state.

State lawmakers and Schwarzenegger approved the elimination of Columbus Day and Lincoln’s Birthday as paid state holidays as part of the state’s attempts to balance its books. SEIU Local 1000, the largest state employee union with 95,000 members, contended that action should have been subject to collective bargaining, and questioned whether the holidays could be rescinded unilaterally.
The union has sent out a number of notices to its members to not work on Columbus Day.

But the Department of Personnel Administration said SEIU’s acted “contrary to law” by “urging its members not to report to work on Columbus Day,” which falls on the second Monday of October. This year, Columbus Day is Oct. 12.

“As you know, the Legislature eliminated the Lincoln and Columbus Day holidays in connection with the February 2009 Budget Act.

State employees who are scheduled to work on October 12, 2009, are expected to report to work just as they would on any other work day. In fact, the Legislature, in acknowledging the change for State employees, recently reminded its own employees to report to work on Columbus Day,” Julie Chapman, DPA’s chief deputy director for policy, wrote the union recently. Her letter was posted on the DPA’s Web site.

Chapman said SEIU’s position “directly interferes with the state’s lawful direction to employees on this issue. SEIU is fully aware of the State’s direction to employees… if an employee does not obtain prior approval, the absence will be considered absent without leave (AWOL),” a move could result in docking the employee pay for that day.

But SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker has said the DPA misconstrued the budget agreement.

“While it is true that the Legislature changed the law, this was done as part of contract negotiations where we exchanged Columbus Day and Lincoln’s Birthday for two personal days,” wrote SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker in an e-mail sent to members on Friday.

“When the Governor broke his word and failed to get our contract ratified by the Legislature, he also lost the ability to implement the new terms of our new contract. Therefore, our current contract, which grants Columbus Day as a holiday, is still in force.”

Other state unions do intend to work on Columbus Day, the DPA noted.

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