Court employees threaten strike

SAN MARTIN
– The Santa Clara Superior Court is enmeshed in a labor dispute
with a union representing 600 of its employees – including roughly
30 in San Martin – that could potentially tangle court operations
if the two sides fail to hammer out a new contract.
SAN MARTIN – The Santa Clara Superior Court is enmeshed in a labor dispute with a union representing 600 of its employees – including roughly 30 in San Martin – that could potentially tangle court operations if the two sides fail to hammer out a new contract.

The Service Employees International Union 715 – which represents everyone from clerical workers and court reporters to court-appointed mediators – will decide today whether to authorize a strike over negotiations that have so far failed to produce a new agreement with the state-run courts.

“The contract has expired, and the bargaining committee felt negotiations were far enough apart that hearing from the membership about what they’re willing to do would be necessary,” said SEIU spokeswoman Isobelle White about the vote.

Salaries are a major issue in the dispute. Court employees want a raise comparable to the 6 percent hike that thousands of county employees recently received, White said, but so far the courts are only offering a 2.5 percent raise the first year and no guaranteed raises in the duration of a proposed three-year contract.

The different offers come after responsibility for the courts shifted from county to state control about three years ago.

“Our members worked hard to make that transition happen,” White said. “The change was never meant to penalize the court workers, but that’s what ended up happening.”

Court workers would also like to negotiate more flexible work schedules, White said, as well as secure better job security for roughly 30 court-employed research attorneys who are hired on a year-to-year basis and can be released at any time without just cause.

White said Monday there’s no firm date set for a strike, and the two sides may go to mediation or back to the bargaining table. But any work stoppage would threaten to at least hamper court operations, which involve the specialized daily intake, coordination and processing of reams of paperwork and legal documents.

A court spokeswoman said Tuesday the court can’t comment on negotiations because they’re in final stages, but officials have developed a “contingency plan” to keep operations running. However, she said she could not elaborate further on the specifics of the plan.

“The court is committed to maintaining services to the public to the greatest extent possible,” said the spokeswoman, reading a prepared statement. “We also recognize a legal obligation to ensure the court’s essential functions will proceed.”

Leave your comments