State workers say they're angry, demoralized and stressed-out over the news that Gov. Schwarzenegger is demanding they take 5 percent pay cuts on top of three unpaid furlough days a month that amount to 15 percent of their salaries.
"The average state employee does not make an income that makes them rich," says Aida Canonizado, who works for the state Employment Development Dept. "We don't go to spas. We don't go on vacations. Maybe if we're lucky, every three to five years we might take a week off with our families.”
Canonizado's husband also is an EDD employee subject to the equivalent of a 20 percent pay cut.
The couple's daughter -- employed by an adult health center whose state-funded salary has considerably been reduced -- now lives with them along with her own daughter, for financial reasons.
"So we're talking about a family where three of us are impacted, and it's going to result in 40 percent less income, when we didn't make that much to begin with. (We’re) trying to put a roof over our heads and food on the table."
Canonizado is acting president of Local 1000 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 95,000 of the state's 230,000 workers.
In an interview Thursday, she said its members -- particularly the 8,900 who work for the Dept. of Motor Vehicles at relatively low income levels -- face daunting financial challenges.
"The economy is bad already; people are losing their homes," Canonizado noted. "You're going to have state employees added to that. They're not going to be able to pay their rent. They're going to be evicted."
The furloughs and pay cut, which the governor imposed under an executive order declaring a state fiscal emergency, will prompt the closure of many state offices on four Fridays a month, Canonizado predicted.
At the moment, many state offices remain open five days a week as "self-directed" operations, juggling smaller staffs or employees who may accumulate compensatory time off.
At the DMV, Saturday closures were ordered in February.
"Every Saturday that DMV offices are closed, that's $35 million the state loses," said Canonizado.
Visitors at the Hillcrest DMV office Thursday expressed sympathy for the employees' plight.
"I think it's really sad that they're taking money away from hard-working Americans that need it, and are not cutting in areas where it's really just a waste, in my opinion," said Point Loma resident Tomica Pall.
"They really have a tough job as it is, anyway, dealing with hundreds of people a day with different problems,” added Chris Foley, of Pacific Beach. If they're going to lose certain benefits or wages, I don't know how they're going to do it. I wouldn't be able to handle working here."
The state workers, added Poway resident Blake Taylor, "are the first ones to get cut because I'm sure that's the easiest thing that Arnold can do when he declares the state of emergency."