Workers protest pay cuts

GLENDALE — Department of Motor Vehicles employees in Glendale demonstrated on Friday against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to reduce state worker wages to the federal minimum wage of $6.55 per hour as lawmakers continued to push for a balanced budget.

As many as 28 DMV workers chanted and marched before doors opened at 8 a.m. in front of the 1335 W. Glenoaks Blvd. location, said Wendy Parker, an organizer with the Service Employees International Union, which represents many of the state’s DMV workers

“This is about public awareness,” she said. “A lot of the public has to be punished as well because of cuts to part-time employees, so we want them to know what’s going on. But it’s also motivational for employees. There’s immense stress in not knowing what’s happening. This allows people to vent and have solidarity.”

Schwarzenegger’s order, issued on July 31, was proposed in the wake of a $15.2-billion budget deficit that has ensnarled legislators who are deadlocked over tax increases, slashes to state-funded programs and budget reform.

As legislators wage their monetary standoff, the state has lapsed into a standstill without a budget since the fiscal year began July 1.

Due to the budgetary constraints, state officials announced this week that many DMV field offices in California usually open for business on Saturday will be closed. But officials said that 53 DMV offices, including the Glendale location, will provide service on the third Saturday of each month from 8 a.m. to noon.

Schwarzenegger issued his salary-reducing order to cut revenue and avoid what he called a “full-blown crisis,” saying the move, combined with other directives, could save the state at least $80 million a month.

Exempt from the directive are workers whose jobs are “directly related to the preservation and protection of human life and safety,” such as police and firefighters and other emergency or disaster response officials, according to the text of the order.

But more than 200,000 state employees, including DMV employees across California, stand to be affected by the directive that will be reflected in checks issued at the end of August, said Parker, who works at the Van Nuys DMV office but joined the Glendale workers on Friday morning.

“We don’t have savings accounts, we’re going paycheck to paycheck,” she said.

“I take in $2,009 a month. That’s not a whole lot after rent and bills. We’re all scared of where the money is going to come from.”

Schwarzenegger’s directive has been derided by Democratic legislators and the state’s top chief financial officer, who made his opposition known in a letter he wrote to the governor shortly after the directive was issued.

“Your order to reduce the salaries of these civil servants [makes] them bear the brunt of the budget stalemate,” State Controller John Chiang wrote to Schwarzenegger on July 31.

“I was independently elected to perform and, because it is based on faulty legal and factual premises, I will not comply.”

Chiang said recently that the state does have enough funds to cover state workers.

Officials in Schwarzenegger’s office contend the state is in a serious fiscal crisis and will benefit from the infusion of cash to result from the suspended salaries.

Schwarzenegger also announced this week that he will not sign any more bills until lawmakers can agree on a budget.

State Sen. Jack Scott, whose bill to educate seventh graders about college financial aide passed the Appropriations Committee on Thursday, said that Schwarzenegger’s latest attempt to force a resolution might not have its desired effect.

“I would be thrilled if that brought pressure to bear against say Republicans for considering the possibility of raising taxes for getting us out of this, but I think it’s probably not going to make a difference,” he said.

“We can hold up bills pretty easily. I doubt it will get the budget passed any sooner.”


 JEREMY OBERSTEIN covers business, politics and the foothills. He may be reached at (818) 637-3215 or by e-mail at jeremy.oberstein@latimes.com.

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