Santa Clara County Workers Threaten to Strike

Santa Clara County's largest labor union voted to authorize a strike next week—which would be the first time in more than 40 years—to protest what they call unfair labor practices and demand higher wages.

The 9,000-member SEIU Local 521 voted to authorize a June 30 strike with no set end date, according to union spokeswoman Khanh Weinberg. Threats of a strike surfaced days before the union's two-year labor contract with the county expired on June 21.

County officials said negotiations will continue through the weekend, so there's a chance both sides could come to an agreement before Tuesday.

Union officials said they want to call attention to a critical 35 percent staffing shortage in the 9-1-1 dispatcher office, social services and public health nurses. They also accuse the county or retaliating against union members who speak up about problems at work.

SEIU Local 521 has filed several complaints with the state Public Employment Relations Board alleging that the county interfered in union business and changed rules about sick leave to scare workers our of striking.

 “After years of recessionary cuts, Santa Clara County has fallen severely behind in key measurements of public health and safety,” Luisa Blue, top elected officer of the union, said in a statement. “But instead of working with its frontline employees to end the crises of homelessness and a looming labor shortage, county management has chosen to intimidate workers and interfere in union business. We don’t want to strike, but the county left workers no other choice.”

According to union reps, the 9-1-1 dispatcher shortage has forced the county to implement mandatory overtime, the nurse-to-resident ratio is one of the lowest in the Bay Area and greater shortage is on the horizon with 2,000 workers reaching retirement age in five years.

Union membership includes workers from virtually every county department, including emergency dispatch, the health and hospital system and social services.

9 Comments

  1. What????????????
    Are county workers homeless?????????
    Has the county started hiring/outsourcing to Pakistan and India??????????
    If we can’t trust the government to treat it’s employees as well as the privet sector, why would anyone want to work for the government?
    Pay and benefits?
    Perhaps the voters need to outsource the government, think you’ll get a better deal?

  2. God this is just so odd. You have Chavez, one of the former directors of the labor board as a BOS member, and they’re still striking. What’s the story there SJI? How did negotiations fail when they have one of their own on the board?

  3. This article was written by somebody who thought it was better just to reprint press statements and skip the hard reporting work. Lazy reporter didn’t even bother to investigate what the unfair labor practices were. The strike has more to do with internal SEIU politics and inter-union rivalries than any grievances. Some of original demands made by SEIU – 12% pay increase per year for 5 years, hiring a thousand new workers, setting caseloads so low that eligibility workers only have to help one person a day – are so over the top that it was a farce.

    • > Some of original demands made by SEIU – 12% pay increase per year for 5 years, hiring a thousand new workers,

      Sounds good to me.

      My paychecks from SJI have been pretty skimpy. I’m being exploited.

      I say we need a bloggers union!

      • SEIU was making an offer the county couldn’t not refuse. No other union was even close. And over the weekend when Executive Smith caved and offered them more than the county can actually.afford it was rejected without discussion by the union negotiators. SEIU just wants to strike. The workers are the tools to make it happen.

        • It would be a service to the public if the SEIU would, in the future, provide some guidance regarding which proposals from the union should be taken seriously and which can be safely ignored since they are just intended to fool, distract, annoy, or outrage people.

  4. I’ve said before that public sectors unions should be done away with. Public employees can be compensated with an established rate at state/national scales allowing for factors such as cost of living, seniority, education. there would be no need to negotiate anything. since its all public information, public dollars – employees know what they’ll get and citizens know what their paying for – its all out there. Why does someone need union protection when they are working for their community, their neighbors, themselves. Eliminating unions from the public sector would stop this money grab blackmail while ceasing any potential for political conflict.

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