By Jon Ortiz
jortiz@sacbee.com The Sacramento Bee
Published: Thursday, Mar. 24, 2011 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

Feelings are facts – and sometimes they’re the most important facts when you’re talking about resolving conflicts.

How else to explain the nearly three months – and unnecessary furlough days for 60,000 affected state workers – for six unions to reach new labor deals with Gov. Jerry Brown?

“These were very tough negotiations,” said Brown’s labor chief, Ron Yank. “There are still some hurt feelings. I understand it.”

Brown brought in Yank, a former state labor lawyer, to get contracts with the groups that didn’t reach deals with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Relations between labor and management had soured like a lemon soaked in pickle brine during Schwarzenegger’s last term. Budget impasse? Invoke case law that says state workers’ pay can be withheld to the federal minimum until lawmakers pass a budget. Cash flow problems? Furlough state workers. Huge budget deficit? Hammer public employee pensions.

Those adroit connections resonated with smaller-government groups, business interests and much of the public. State workers viewed the tactics as mean, dishonest and exploitative.

Some unions, including the 95,000-member SEIU Local 1000, got past all that and agreed to new pacts with Schwarzenegger that were a mix of gains and concessions: deferred raises for some employees, increases in what they pay into their pensions, unpaid days off spread over a year with a no-furlough guarantee during that time.

Brown took over and told Yank to get the six unions without deals, including the massive California Correctional Peace Officers Association, into contracts by mid-March and to wring from them 8 percent to 10 percent in pre-furlough cuts for 2011-12, roughly $308 million total.

It was a small but symbolically significant piece of Brown’s plan to attack the $26.6 billion budget deficit, since unions keyed his 2010 election win.

When asked Wednesday if the unions got a better deal by waiting, Yank said, “No. Our position didn’t change much from Day One. There’s no money.”

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