Friday Furloughs Can Signify Feast Or Famine

April 2, 2010

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The Denver Business Journal reports that in Colorado, state employees will be taking their seventh unpaid day off this coming Friday, as part of a measure that is saving the state $27.2 million this fiscal year.

In Charlotte, NC and surrounding Mecklenburg County, WFAE announced that the public school board is proposing that employees accept a two-day furlough next year in place of salary cuts.

And, according to the Kansas City Business Journal, State-level courts in Kansas will be closed for four days in April and May in order to offset budget shortfalls.

While across the country state and local governments are responding to budget crises by instituting furloughs, none has been more controversial than in California. State employees and their unions have filed more than two dozen cases to overturn Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's furlough Fridays order which went into effect in late 2008 with two days off per month and was later increased to three days.

The most recent decision, made by the 1st District Court of Appeals and reported by Business Week, upholds the furlough, disheartening some in the State but not others.

Dianne Bradford, 57, who works for the Department of Health Care Services, is suffering because of loss of pay as well as uncertainties around whether furloughs will continue. In a story by KPBS Public Broadcasting, she states that the three unpaid work days constitute a 14% pay cut, making it impossible for her to cover her mortgage. She had hoped that the courts would abolish the furloughs, but with the latest decision, she will likely have to sell her home at a loss to avoid foreclosure.

While she is one of nearly 240,000 state employees who have had their work hours cut, not everyone in California is so despondent about it. In fact, many in private business are taking advantage of the fact that there are more Californians on the streets on Fridays now. And, they're making money off the unpaid workers. According to the Wall Street Journal, some ski areas, casinos, and malls offer discounts on Fridays to pick up additional customers now available on the weekday.

Not only does increased business make owners happy, but the chance to get discounts pleases customers. Hallie Morris, whose husband is now off work most Fridays, recently went snowboarding at Boreal Mountain Resort with him and their 16-year old son. She loves the almost 70% savings and the opportunities the furloughs offer, saying, "We can actually do more things as a family, and we don't have to deal with the crowds."

Compiled by Abigail Rome

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