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Monday, July 16, 2012

San Francisco Court Workers Explain Today's Strike

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2012 at 1:55 PM

Not your typical day at the ol' courthouse.
  • Not your typical day at the ol' courthouse.

Court workers who walked off the job this morning are gathered in front of the San Francisco Superior Court House, where they plan to picket throughout the day.

SF Weekly correspondent Jeff Sandstoe caught up with some of the nearly 200 demonstrators, who are being represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021.

As we reported earlier, the strike has been a long time coming, according to court workers, who said they have been making sacrifices for too many years, including forced furlough days, massive layoffs, and inadequate staffing, without having their voices heard.

"For the last five years we've given concessions," said court clerk Priscilla Agbunag. "We've done out part, and now they haven't given us the information that we need."

What they want is the new budget information for the Superior Court System, which employees say will help them conduct more informed negotiations.

Recent state legislation aimed to fix the court system has pumped plenty of new monies into court coffers, but the workers say they haven't seen one dime of that. In fact, the courts have yet to reverse the staffing cuts that were made previously. On the contrary, 66 workers have been laid off in the past eight months, union members said.

The workers collectively met with management earlier this year to negotiate better deals for the court workers, but nothing was accomplished. And now workers say that management is refusing to come back to the bargaining table.

"This strike isn't a surprise," said Angelo Berto Gonzalez, a court clerk for seven years. "We've tried to bargain with management, but they haven't listened." Gonzalez said that in his seven years of working for the courts, he hasn't once received a raise. Instead, he faces fewer working hours because of the cuts.

So what does this strike mean for you? Services at the courts today are limited at best; only a few courtrooms are open and staffed by management who is filling in for those on strike. T. Michael Yuen, court executive officer, sent out a news release, stating that earlier, the union has erroneously claimed it closed down the courts.

"The Court is committed to assuring that all essential functions proceed in spite of this misguided action by employees who are jeopardizing access to justice for their own unjustified reasons," Yuen said.

What that means is if you were planning to take today off to get a divorce, sadly, you might have to live with your spouse one more day.

"It's important that people know that this is not about money.... We don't have enough people working in the courts," said Diane Williams, a clerk of 20 years. The forced days of closure, along with reduced hours and staff, have had negative consequences for everyday people who need to use the court systems."

"It's not about us, it's about the people waiting in line for hours just to process a ticket," Williams added.

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Jeff Sandstoe


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