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March 31, 2020

County union poised to strike Feb. 28

SEIU represents 12,000 workers, cites unfair actions

Leaders of a union that represents approximately 12,000 Santa Clara County workers said this week their members are ready to strike Feb. 28 to protest county negotiating tactics.

The county Board of Supervisors discussed the labor dispute in a special closed session Feb. 24.

“The county is proposing eliminating the wage increase for June 2020 that they included in their ‘last, best and final offer’ of 2019,” said Janet Diaz, a patient services clerk at Valley Medical Center and president of the county chapter of Service Employees International Union Local 521, in a statement Feb. 23. “This is not only illegal, but a deliberate attack on the livelihoods of workers who not only serve the public, but who are residents of this county.”

She called on the Board of Supervisors to intervene in the contract dispute, to avoid a county-wide strike.

The current strike announcement comes nine months after the expiration of a contract between the SEIU and the county.

The dispute included a 10-day strike in October 2019 followed by voluntary mediation in November.

Diaz said the keys in the contract dispute are “short staffing and turnover resulting from low pay and mismanagement.”

“Until recently, it appeared that agreement was close, but now the county CEO (Jeff Smith) is moving backwards by insisting on a new offer with roughly $110 million less in raises than what had been offered by the county in October 2019,” the union said in a statement.

“Cancelling a proposed raise and removing other items which had already been agreed upon are a clear attempt by Jeff Smith to derail a potential settlement,” Diaz said. “Hundreds of public workers have shared our issues of economic insecurities, workplace safety concerns and staffing shortages. The Board of Supervisors are the elected leaders and have an obligation to their constituents to direct Smith to stop these unfair labor practices and reach a fair settlement.”

County workers represented by SEIU Local 521 have been without a contract since July 17, 2019.  In August, 97 percent of its members voted to authorize an unfair labor practices strike. County workers started to strike over unfair labor practices in October for the first time in 40 years.

The strike was in response to the County’s reorganization of the Department of Family and Children’s Services.

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