I haven't talked much to the public employee unions during the last few years as California teeters on the edge (allegedly) of insolvency, and everyone speaks of the need to reform employee pay and benefits.
California has about 225,000 organized state employees—still—and many have been forced to take three-day-a-month furloughs without pay.
A few thousand of them converged on the Capitol Wednesday to protest threats by the Governor to impose the $7.25 minimum wage on them starting Thursday.
There's no budget, and no solution to the $19.1 billion deficit.
For the first time, the 95,000 member strong SEIU 1000seems open to pension and benefit reform. But they threaten war if the minimum wage is forced on them. Controller John Chiang, a Democrat, says he will not impose the minimum wage until the Governor issues an executive order and/or a court order forces him to.
Worker say they're the state's whipping boys. But when confronted with the lack of funds to pay them, many claim state contracts to private operators are siphoning off money for jobs which state workers could do for less money. At least that's what they claim.
On the other side, you have a minority Republican legislative caucus which sees things very differently. With a two-thirds vote needed in California to pass a budget, the Republicans have enough power to stop any deal which includes tax hikes. And they promise they will.
About the only thing both sides agree on is that when it comes to pension reform, current retirees may be off limits.
It's the two sides of California, and one side is going to have to give this summer.
In the first interview, state worker Kevin Menager from the state Franchise Tax Board likens himself to a dog who's been kicked one too many times.
He's joined by SEIU negotiator Francisca Pass.