California state workers protest 60% paycut

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Jul 14 2010 11:51 AM | Updated as of Jul 14 2010 07:51 PM

SAN FRANCISCO, California – Filipino American workers in the state of California are up in arms about a plan to cut their salaries to the federal minimum wage.

Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) employee Dina Oreta said she and some 200,000 state workers could lose 60% of their salaries after California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the state controller to cut their pay to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

“That’s an insult to us. Ano naman ang gagawin namin sa $7.25 an hour? Ang mahal ng cost of living dito sa Bay Area,” said Oreta.

The courts have sided with Schwarzenegger, saying he has the authority to lower most state workers’ pay to the federal minimum wage if a state budget is not in place. California faces a deficit of $19 billion and has been without a budget since Thursday.

It’s uncertain when the lawmakers can agree on how to deal with the deficit, especially now that the state is running out of options. California has already spent a chunk of its federal stimulus money.

State Controller John Chiang said it is wrong to balance the budget on the backs of everyday workers.

Chiang has filed a lawsuit seeking to have the order to cut state workers’ pay thrown out.

DMV employee Juliet Oliviano said she and many of her co-workers are now looking for second jobs.

“Paano namin mababayaran ang mortgage namin? May tatlo pa akong anak, papasok sa college,” said Oliviano.

DMV customer Yolanda Santos-Paytone said cutting workers’ paychecks should be Schwarzenegger’s last option.

“Ang dami nilang trabaho. Ang dami nilang paperwork na dapat gawin. Hindi naman fair,” Santos-Paytone said.

Some state workers have it worse. If Schwarzenegger’s order survives legal challenges, lawmakers and their staff, gubernatorial appointees, lawyers and doctors for the state would not get paid at all while the state budget hangs in the balance.

Critics of the temporary pay cuts said the move will not actually save the state money. Workers will be reimbursed the balance of the pay cuts once the budget is passed. Balitang America