State workers protest in front of CalHR to demand better wages

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Sacramento, CA — State workers rallied in front of the CalHR offices in Sacramento today in an effort to put pressure on the ongoing negotiations with the State’s HR agency.

Photo of workers wearing purple

Carrying signs and chanting slogans, a large gaggle of purple-wearing members of the SEIU1000, the union representing over 100,000 state workers, gathered in front of the building housing CalHR’s main offices. The crowd engulfed the sidewalk along the building, but street traffic remained open. Many drivers passing by expressed solidarity with the union members adding their car horns to the bullhorns, whistles, and shouts of the union crowd.

In a time of skyrocketing rents and yearly inflation over 10%, workers in every industry are being squeezed by the economy more and more. Our state government is no exception.

These same state workers voluntarily took a 10% pay cut during the pandemic, just in case the state went into recession. Instead, the state actually collected more tax revenue than ever before– and none of it went to paying back the workers. Now, the state is in negotiation with the workers for a new contract. The worker’s representatives put forward a 30% pay increase. The state bargaining team, housed at CalHR, responded with an offer of 2% pay increase per year for three years (or 6% total over the term of the contract).

Protest signs that say "6% won't pay my rent" and "Shame on CalHR"

As the signs at the protest say, “6% won’t pay my rent.”

It’s anyone’s guess how state workers will respond to such an anemic offer. If history is any indication, SEIU lacks the bargaining power to really push for a pay raise. State workers themselves may be reluctant to strike or take other actions. Such a large and diverse group of workers might have trouble coming together for their paycheck– especially since many state workers already own homes and are generally well off compared to others in state service, many of who are living month-to-month.

But if the strength shown at this rally today can translate into organizing among the workers, they might have a shot at securing a living wage for state workers.

On the other side of the bargaining table, CalHR has likely been given no room to bargain by their leaders in the Governor’s Office and the Legislature. There is no talk of raising taxes or raiding the state’s rainy-day fund to give a raise to state workers, and as long as the corporations and wealthy capitalists control both major political parties and the media, tax raises will not be getting any consideration any time soon.

The State of California is the richest state in the richest country in the world. Our governor has even gone on television to tell conservatives about how well off our economic vision is. That Newsom’s employees can’t afford rent in Sacramento where they work, doesn’t seem to get any mention on Fox News, CNN, or any of the other corporate media companies.

Jon Ivy

Jon Ivy is an attorney and analyst in Sacramento, CA who writes regularly about California's government.