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.