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State workers take stand against new California hybrid work policy

California state workers take stand against new hybrid work policy
California state workers take stand against new hybrid work policy 03:04

SACRAMENTO - California state workers are set to suit up and return to Sacramento offices at least two days per week starting June 17.

Gov. Gavin Newsom's office sent a letter to state employees this week, which said the policy is in response to the inconsistency in hybrid work approaches across agencies, but state workers want to keep working from home.

"State workers are saying no," said Irene Green, vice president for bargaining at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU 1000) that represents state workers. "They are willing and ready to fight this."

CBS13 spoke with multiple state workers who did not want to be identified but all shared this same stance.

"It has been a learning curve, but we've done really well up to this point," said one state worker who has worked for the California Environmental Protection Agency for the past five years. 

She is one of the 240,000 who will need to stop working from home at least two days per week. 

"Our scientists have already stated that this is going to have a negative impact on carbon emissions," the state worker said.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg applauded the governor's mandate and what it will mean for the city. He gave this statement to CBS13: 

"I respect the desire of all our public sector workers to have the flexibility that enables a greater work life balance. At the same time, our city and downtown welcome you back to all the growing downtown has to offer; farmers markets, great events at Golden 1 Center and beyond, new restaurants and much more to come in the months and years ahead.
Our small businesses especially welcome you back as they have been hardest hit since the pandemic.

I applaud the governor for crafting a balanced and thoughtful approach."

California state workers want a better answer than business to bring them back to the office.

"We shouldn't be expected to go downtown and spend money just to bail out Mayor Steinberg," another state worker said.

Green believes the biggest impact will be on each state worker's budget. The union said state workers received a 9.26% pay decrease for two years during the pandemic.

Since 2020, each state worker got on average a 3% pay bump. They believe this does not keep up with inflation.

"I would argue if people don't have it in their budget to commute, how will they have it in their budget to buy coffee and lunch when they are in the office?" said Bill Hall, board chair of SEIU 1000.

CBS13 asked a different anonymous state worker who works for the Employment Development Department (EDD) what their message is to all the other jobs that have required employees to return to work.

"I feel like we've been doing it for so long in the telework position and environment that coming into the office I don't know if it's making a change or difference," the EDD worker said.

The EDD worker has been going into the office two days a week for a while now but knows many others have been fully remote. She said many state workers are starting to quit after they were hired, thinking they would be remote for good and not live in the area.

Another concern for state workers is parking problems. The only option for many state buildings is parking meters or parking structures which will be an added cost they have not had to deal with for the past four years.

"Technology has provided a way for us to advance. We are embracing that," Green said. "So let's not step away from it."

Green said each state department must send the union a notice and then meet with the union before the workers can return to the office.

According to Hall, the union has received a few notices but expects that the full return on June 17 may be delayed for some departments if the state cannot make this meeting deadline.

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