California has slashed the salaries of 217,000 state employees by nearly 5 percent as part of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to save the state $850 million.
The plan is an effort to move the state closer to erasing a $16 billion deficit.
Nineteen employee unions agreed to the one-year cut in exchange for one extra day off a month.
An estimated 11,000 engineers in two bargaining units did not agree to the furloughs. But the cuts were still forced on them.
"State government workers are not immune to the same types of pressures that the private sector is," H.D. Palmer, deputy director for the California Department of Finance, told local reporters.
"Rather than going through a layoff situation, the agreement was to have individuals agree to or have forced upon them a one-day-a-month unpaid leave per month," he said.
State leaders gave advanced warning of the cuts. But it was still surprising for many workers when they opened this week's paychecks to see what the loss really meant.