Local Politics

N.C. state employees rally against furloughs

Posted May 5, 2009
Updated May 6, 2009

— A union representing North Carolina state employees pushed back against potential pay cuts, layoffs and worker furloughs.

Nearly 100 members of the State Employees Association of North Carolina rallied in downtown Raleigh Tuesday morning to try drumming up opposition to mandatory furloughs.

The group says several bills in the General Assembly are asking for furloughs, and it fears Gov. Perdue's flexible furlough announcement last week will make them closer to a reality in coming years, especially as the recession increased the demand for public services.

Worker protest State employees call for action against furloughs

"Families first and no furloughs – that's what we're fighting for today," April Graham, an 11-year- Department of Correction employee, said Tuesday outside the Legislative Building before meeting with lawmakers.

"My family has to eat. My family has to survive," she added. "I've got to have health care for my kids. So, come on, wake up and smell the coffee."

Perdue last week announced that all state workers, including herself, will see their annual pay cut a half percent in May and June in return for an extra 10 hours of time off later in the year.

Perdue said she took action because it's her responsibility to make sure the state's budget is balanced on June 30 when the fiscal year ends.

The pay cuts, she said, will save an estimated $65 million and help fill the gap left by an expected $3 billion-plus budget shortfall.

The SEANC said that although employees are unhappy with the half-percent pay cut, most workers realize the governor's decision is not up for debate.

But as state employees, like Stephanie Thompson, digested the pay cut, they wondered if it is just the beginning.

“A lot of people are discussing, 'What's the next step?' What will happen after the fiscal year is over,” said Thompson, who works for the state Department of Commerce.

House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman said while job preservation is a priority, there could be deeper pay cuts and possibly one furlough day a month in next fiscal year's budget.

"It could be more," Holliman, D-Davidson, said. "Certainly, we have to run the numbers and see how much money we have to come up with."

Perdue said Tuesday she is concerned the cuts are far from over.

"I have a real worry that by September, October, when the General Assembly goes home – unless things turn around quickly in this country – I may be doing Round 6 and 7 with more cuts with more hard decisions," she said.

That is not the message state workers hoped to hear.

“Like anybody else, I'm nervous,” Kathy Robinson, an employee at the state Department of Revenue, said. “You don't want to keep losing money, but you hope you have a job.”

The governor said last week she also planned to borrow $400 million of federal stimulus money designated for next year’s budget to balance the budget in the current year.

“She's created, by doing that, an additional $400 million hole (for the 2010 fiscal year) that will need to be resolved somehow,” Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, pointed out.

Both sides of the aisle acknowledge deep cuts are inevitable.

“It's not gonna be easy,” Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, chairman of the finance committee said. “It's gonna be very, very difficult and it's gonna be very painful for a lot of people."

Pam Pope has been a state employee for 25 years. “I worry about my job as well as others,” she said.

More details are expected as the budget process continues. It is in the state House, where leaders say it could be a month, if not longer, before they are in a position to vote on a plan..

The next fiscal year begins July 1.


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  • ts807 May 7, 2009

    April Graham is eloquent. Props to her.

    Too bad the SEANC isn't a real union.

  • jbar174 May 6, 2009


    I believe there are bigger concerns than a few DOT guys stopping in and grabbing a bite. Don't worry though, your comments have made it to the NC DOT and those guys will no longer stop there for breakfast. Also, don't forget that business that feeds those guys, it hurts all the way down.

  • MakoII May 6, 2009


    Your statement that most cheated taxes are from Politicians just is too incredulous to take seriously. First, there are but so many politicians. They can't possible, by salary or otherwise be even a dent in the lost revenue body.

    Most workers can't even cheat much. Those responsible for the bulk of lost tax revenue are "business" owners. Many are small time who take "losses", count every lunch as if it's a "business" lunch, or more square feet of their house than they would really use for a business.

    But I'd bet the bulk are from large companies who have tax professionals that know how to hide assets off-shore.

    The people who cheat the most are those who can afford the best cheat professionals.

    AND, I'd bet my money that your average person who cheats on their taxes is someone who bashes the government verbally.

    The same people who pretend to be more "patriotic" I'm sure...

  • MakoII May 6, 2009


    "These people have been getting state benefits for years".

    Uh, just what ARE these "state benefits"?

    Please, just PLEEZ tell me how they are better than Private Industry? State Workers get terrible benefits compared to similarly sized Private Industry firms, corporations, businesses.

    You don't know what you're talking about. You're spreading myths.

  • MakoII May 6, 2009


    You are talking about "Non-Subject" employees. It's the same in State. If you make over a pay grade 71 then you are "Non-Subject", which is to say, basically making more than 31k.

    I'm talking about hourly-waged employees, "Subject" employees which Private Industry is required to pay, per hour, for their over-time.

    We're not talking about privileged, educated IT workers who make, very often, fine salaries. I know having been in that field myself. You work on some jobs 40 hours a week easy. Others, you work 60 hours and it's STILL not good enough for your employer. The thing there is to quit and find work elsewhere.

    But these are low paid by-the-hour employees in both industries where in Private Industry, the STATE forces the job to PAY them, but exempts it's OWN employees from being paid for FORCING them to take time off.

    It's a double standard. My point is, if you want State Workers to be treated LIKE Private Industry workers, Give them the same rights!

  • Tolip May 6, 2009

    Watch this space, it will get way, way worse than this before it gets better! Increaded pending more will NOT get North Carolina or the United States out of this mess!!

  • MakoII May 6, 2009


    Capitalism is fine. I'm not knocking our economic system. I think it needs some limits so we don't have monopolies, and some oversight so people don't break the laws. Reasonable stuff.

    But while you're attempting to paint me as some commie, you and like-minded thinkers are getting the best education in the worlds and first class civil service and all YOU do is whine about how bad Teachers and State workers are.

    Do you ALSO whine about how bad the military personnel are for NOT "winning" in Iraq and Afghanistan and say THEY should also "feel the pain"?

    Currently we're having a Swine Flu epidemic. Just who's salary do you want to cut? Who do you want to fire? The one testing for this flu? I can tell, that despite this constant assault on reputation and salary, I've never seen nor heard a State Worker ever take it out on their job. It's quite shocking how these people take their jobs seriously.

    Your Anti-State Worker attack is UnAmerican. You attack Americans.

  • Bendal1 May 6, 2009

    I love how the legislators are saying "we won't be ready to vote on the new budget for a month" but keep throwing out little tidbits like "lots of people are going to feel pain" and "more cuts will be necessary" and rumors about real furloughs are mentioned. This budget will probably be kept as top secret as the Manhattan Project until the day they vote on it, and then every legislator will try and conceal which way they voted for as long as possible. The longer they dicker and debate, though, the less time they'll have to use to balance the budget with. Spreading pay cuts over the whole year is a lot easier to digest than shoving them all into the last few months.

  • jse830fcnawa030klgmvnnaw+ May 6, 2009

    I've cancelled my membership with SEANC. I did not agree in their furlough protest, and I am very disappointed since it was very negative. What the state government employees are experiencing per their current furloughs are quite small, compared to others who have lost their jobs, their homes, and furloughed with no pay for an extensive period of time. Instead, SEANC could have made the rally more positive by recognizing the effects of the severe economic recession, plus continuing to fight for support on maintaining state services for NC taxpayers by sustaining employment and pay levels for their members (in state government).

  • dogman1973 May 6, 2009

    I don't know why some State Employees are so mad since most likely voted for Pres Obama. Didn't he tell everyone that they need to put some skin in the game? Well, here is your chance State Employees to get some skin in and cheer "Change we can believe In".