Feel that chill in the air? It’s government vs. labor

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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Defrosting the notebook while wondering just how much worse this past storm would have been without all of this global warming ... And apparently one other thing having a rather tough time warming up is the relationship between Placer County government and the Placer Public Employees Organization (PPEO). Although unions and employers have never been as close as, say, Tiger Woods and the Missus, we all watched things get extremely frosty in the most recent set of local labor negotiations. Seems that part of the problem was the trickling down of dilemmas caused by the state, but over at the numerous county buildings there was a definite lack of consensus at just what should be done. Labor did what every union has done since Walter Reuther was in short pants, namely try to get government to cut each and every budget item except salaries. Government also ran true to form, cutting the smallest paychecks while still managing to find a spare dollar or two for those much-needed raises for the higher-ups. Now some might view a development late last month as perhaps being a harbinger of an oncoming thaw. My advice is not to bet on it. The reference is to a settlement reached between Placer County and the PPEO in regard to the four (unpaid) furlough days unilaterally placed upon the county workers. One would think that such good news would be trumpeted by one and all, especially by the county which never got around to laying off even one of its myriad publicists. We had to go to the PPEO Web site ( to get the story, although a kind-hearted county worker was good enough to slip us a copy of the general memo from PPEO President Jake Mucher. According to that missive, “employees who participated in the furloughs will be credited with four hours of floating holiday time for each eight hours the employee was furloughed.” Those workers can use the first eight hours in 2010, and the remainder the following year. Some of you may remember that the county did make some announcements when the furloughs were initiated. Then there were follow-up stories, mainly from the county concerning how much money would be saved by those forced days off without pay. Still, the county is better off fiscally, even with this quietly approved settlement. After all, the county got to save four days of full-time pay per employee, and now must repay 16-hours of floating holiday time to be absorbed singly and over a two-year period. Which means the county still can be considered the winner. Now if only it can recoup some of the $200,000 or so per year pension it must soon start paying out to recently departed Chief Assistant CEO Richard Colwell ... Republican rage: Believe me, I’m not trying to turn this weekly column into a newsletter for the Placer County Republican Central Committee, but events seem to dictate otherwise. We’ve dutifully reported on contributions shenanigans, and the local angst causing some big-name Republicans to bolt the party. Now another shot was fired across the committee’s bow by Auburn Mayor (and former U.S. Navy Captain) Mike Holmes. From the floor of Wednesday night’s central committee meeting, Holmes curtly summarized the recent local woes inflicted by chairman Tom Hudson, claiming great concern for the “the lack of adherence” to the committee’s own by-laws. Besides reviewing the mess caused by the recent check kitings, Holmes also sought to indict Hudson for the local party’s dwindling registration, as well as the lack of printed minutes of recent meetings. Then Holmes said “Mr. Chairman, this committee is not your personal committee to further your personal agenda. “It is not a chapter of the California Republican Assembly,” Holmes said, immediately adding he felt the central committee needs to unfold a bigger tent, reaching out to the likes of the Republican Congress, the local women’s federated clubs and similar organizations. Holmes said he’s been talking to “a number of Republicans serving in non-partisan elected positions” as well as former elected officials and possible upcoming candidates. He continued, “... they agree with me and think we need new leadership and strongly suggest you resign as chair and we elect new leadership in January.” As for me, I think Hudson will resign just as soon as hell gets the same sort of snowstorm we recently had. Of course, Hudson may well be counting upon global warming. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sundays in the Journal. Reach him at