In the summer of 2010, then-Governor Schwarzenegger, unable to get a budget passed by the legislature, attempted to illustrate that the state was at that point unable to meet its salary obligations by reducing payments to state workers to minimum wage. State Controller John Chiang refused to carry out the order. The Sacramento Valley Branch of WILPF sent Controller Chiang the following letter:
State Controller John Chiang,
California State Controller's Office,
300 Capitol Mall,
Sacramento, CA. 95814
The Sacramento Area Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) supports you in your refusal to impose minimum wages on state workers.
We hope that in the future you will be able to support two of our goals for workers: a living wage for all and full employment.
Co-Chair of the Sacramento Area Branch of WILPF
In October we received this reply:
October 29, 2010
Sacramento Valley Branch
Women's International League For Peace and Freedom
9629 Bradhugh Court
Sacramento, CA 95827
Dear Ms. Boehm:
Thank you for contacting my office regarding California's federal minimum wage lawsuit for state employees. I appreciate your support.
As State Controller, my first responsibility is to protect taxpayer dollars. The Governor's proposal to cut innocent state employees' salaries to the federal minimum wage is a cheap political trick that does nothing to solve the State's budget problems. Instead, it could cost California taxpayers billions of dollars in penalties for violating federal and state labor and contract laws, and wreak havoc on the lives of more than 200,000 workers.
As expected, the July 1st ruling by the Third District Court of Appeal restates the Supreme Court's 2003 ruling in White v. Davis, but goes several steps further by saying my office could be excused from reducing the salaries of some 250,000 employees to minimum wage if it is practically infeasible to do so without violating numerous laws, including the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the State Constitution. Like the Supreme Court in White v. Davis, the appellate court declined to resolve the feasibility issue.
This is not a simple software problem. Reducing pay and then restoring it in a timely manner once a budget is enacted cannot be done without gross violations of law unless and until the State completes its overhaul of the state payroll system and payroll laws are changed.
On July 16, Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette denied the Governor's request to force my office to immediately cut state employees' salaries to the federal minimum wage until the issue of whether my office can lawfully do so, given California's current payroll laws and the existing antiquated payroll system, is resolved. Judge Marlette issued a ruling on August 25th that my office's cross-complaint has enough merit to require a full hearing. The next hearing on the case has been scheduled to begin on November 29th
For more information on the cross-complaint filed please visit my website at www.sco.ca.gov. Again, thank you for taking the time to write my office.
Very truly yours,
California State Controller