October 4, 2009

Calif., state workers spar on Columbus Day

A dispute over whether Columbus Day is a holiday for California state workers is raising tensions between the state and the employees, union officials say.

Service Employees International Union Local 1000, which represents some state workers, has told members to stay home on Columbus Day -- the second Monday of October -- as called for in the union's last contract and the law. But California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger disagrees, The Sacramento Bee reported Sunday.

The governor's office has said employees who want Oct. 12 off must take personal leave time or have their pay docked and face discipline -- and the issue is causing tensions to rise in state workplaces, the newspaper said.

People were getting upset with each other, union District President Ron Benge said. So I said, 'No one is going to question whether you come in or take the day off. What you do is your business.'

The newspaper said the controversy stems from a bill legislators passed and the governor signed in February -- anticipating concessions from state employees in contract talks -- that eliminates Columbus Day and Lincoln's Birthday as paid holidays. Under the deal, union members would get more personal time in exchange, but Republican lawmakers have blocked the contract's ratification, the Bee said.