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Brown drops lawsuit to impose minimum wage on workers

Gov. Jerry Brown has abandoned an effort by his predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to lower state workers’ paychecks to the federal minimum wage during a budget impasse.

During the budget stalemate last summer, Schwarzenegger tried to slash the pay of roughly 200,000 state workers to $7.25 per hour. But state Controller John Chiang refused, arguing that his outdated computers couldn’t handle the task. The Schwarzenegger administration sued.

This week Brown agreed to drop the case. “It was going to a protracted and expensive trial,” said Lynelle Jolley, a spokeswoman for Brown’s Department of Personnel Administration. Legal fees in the case had already reached $928,000 by the end of 2010, she said.

Chiang called the case “a frivolous waste” in a written statement. State workers would have been entitled to their back-pay after a budget was signed, so the order “would not have saved the state one penny,” he said.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, effectively used the minimum-wage threat to leverage a handful of unions into making contract concessions last summer. Among those were provisions protecting them from any future minimum wage order. Unions, which are among Democrats Brown and Chiang’s biggest financial backers, cheered the decision to drop the lawsuit Tuesday.

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

 
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