Bill would reinstate state workers who go AWOL - Brian W. Jones

Bill would reinstate state workers who go AWOL


Bill would reinstate state workers who go AWOL

San Diego Union-Tribune
SACRAMENTO — California's public-employee unions have run marketing campaigns in Sacramento focused on the idea that state employees are hard workers who help improve the quality of life in our state..

a clear effort to debunk the bad press these employees have sometimes received over pension-spiking and other issues. That's fair enough, but if one wants to understand the motivations of some of the public-sector union leadership, it's best to look past the glossy billboards and focus on the grubby bill-making process in the Capitol.

At the behest of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), for instance, Assemblymember Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, is pushing ahead legislation almost designed to make the public think the worst about the state's public employees. The bill, AB 855, requires state agencies to reinstate employees who go AWOL (Absent With Out Leave) for up to five days provided the employee provides an excuse from a health-care provider. Currently, an employee is considered to have voluntarily resigned from state service if that person goes absent without telling anyone for an entire work week.

As the legislative bill analysis explains, "This bill allows a state employee who is absent without leave (AWOL) to demonstrate he/she is able to resume job duties by submitting written verification from a licensed health care provider, as specified, and requires the Department of Human Resources (CalHR) to grant reinstatement if the appointing power (i.e., the employer) invokes the 'automatic resignation for state service' provisions before the employee is AWOL for five consecutive work days."

This legislation was highlighted Tuesday by Assemblyman Brian Jones, the Santee Republican who is the caucus chairman. He was featured in an "Are You Kidding Me?" video segment making these points: “This is not the type of behavior the state should promote. We need to hold the government unions accountable for creating this horrible work environment for those who actually want to do a good job.” In the private sector, such employees would typically be fired. Any employee who just goes missing without contacting a supervisor is not the kind of employee one usually wants to employ.

The legislation micromanages agency human resources departments, Jones told me. But the bigger issue is what it says about the priorities of the state's public-sector union leadership and about the willingness of legislators to carry bills designed to protect the worst workers. That's always been the rub about unions -- they protect the bad actors at the expense of the good ones. Most Californians are worried about the quality of public services. So much reform is needed in the public sector, yet unions and their allies are busy dreaming up special protections, even for those who just disappear from work.

"In the world of the supermajorities that the unions helped purchase, we will see more of this nonsense," Jones said. Labor leaders will push these kinds of crazy seeming bills "just because they can."

Supporters of the bill portray it as a due-process issue -- assuring that the employees has a fair shot to be reinstated. But why are they so worried about this small group?

Sadly, the unions are completely serious. The bill passed the Senate floor 46-27 and is awaiting action in Senate appropriations.

San Diego Union-Tribune