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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Court Workers to Decide on Possible Strike

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2012 at 11:06 AM

Management vs. workers: an age old American conflict. - HENNEPIN COUNTY LIBRARY
  • Hennepin County Library
  • Management vs. workers: an age old American conflict.

There are few experiences in San Francisco more excruciating than waiting in line outside the Hall of Justice to take care of a traffic ticket. People crane their necks, instinctively trying to snatch a sight of the front of the line. Somebody inevitably says, "Why are three of the windows closed?" And then someone  else inevitably says, "Man, this place sucks."

One reason three of the five service windows might be closed, of course, is that California is broke and public sector workers are getting laid off. Nearly 70 court employees lost their jobs in October, for instance.

The remaining 263 Superior Court workers and the Administrative Office of the Courts, which manages the state court budget and serves as the county court's bargaining agent, are currently negotiating a new labor contract. The court is proposing a 5 percent pay cut, and the workers consider that offer unfair. So today court employees will vote on strike authorization, which means that there could be a court worker strike if the two sides fail to come to an agreement soon.

And that would mean the line outside the Hall of Justice Room 145 would wind all the way to Trader Joe's.

The court's argument is simple: Purse strings are tightening all around these days; it's time for more shared sacrifices; and money saved from pay cuts will prevent even more layoffs.

But the workers, who are represented by SEIU 1021, believe that they are getting punished for the AOC's fiscal mismanagement. Notably, the failed 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.

"The management wastes all this money, totally blows it, and they come to [the] bargaining table and say 'You gotta pay for our mistake.'" says Steve Stallone, a spokesman for SEIU 1021. "How does that sound right? 'We wasted half a billion dollars so you gotta pay for it.'"

The strike authorization vote, which gives union leaders the power to call a strike if negotiations fail, comes as the workers present AOC officials with another contract proposal. While labor leaders are not disclosing whether or not they are willing to accept pay cuts less than 5 percent, Stallone notes that the court management should seek budget cuts through furloughs and holidays rather than pay decreases.

The sides are also tangling over health benefits -- the AOC's proposal bumped-up how much employees contribute for their coverage.

There have been six negotiating sessions so far, the last one of which included a mediator. Now, SEIU court workers will hold a rally today at noon at Civic Center.

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Albert Samaha


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