Court employees empowered union leaders yesterday to authorize a strike if need be, saying they are tired of the dead-end negotiations with management.
Local court workers, who are represented by SEIU Local 1021, voted 95 percent in favor of calling a strike if there isn't some movement at the negotiating table -- soon.
"We didn't want to go there, but management pushed us," said Diane Williams, a court clerk.
Williams reiterated the frustration among court employees who say the Administrative Office of the Court, the bureaucracy that oversees the state courts, are pushing unfair and permanent pay cuts on employees. In October, 70 percent of court employees across the state lost their jobs due to massive budget cuts.
But workers blame the AOC and its fiscal "mismanagement," most notably, the Court Case Management System,
a computer network designed to link the filing databases of the state's
58 counties. The system, slated to cost $206 million, ate up $500
million before the state's Judicial Council killed it in March.
Now the two sides are negotiating a new contract, but management has refused to budge from its position of permanent paycuts, Williams said. Meanwhile, workers have asked to resolve the financial mess through furloughs, not wage freezes.
"For years we have taken pay freezes, furloughs, and layoffs while the AOC has wasted the funds allocated for our courts -- but no more," said Mary Leong, a clerk at the Hall of Justice and a member of the union's Bargaining Team. "We are showing them we are serious about finding solutions -- we are taking a stand."
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