Court Workers Decide Whether or not to Strike Over Stalled Contract Negotiations

Dozens of San Francisco court workers rallied outside the city’s Civic Center Courthouse this afternoon to cast their votes on whether to strike amid what they say is “bad faith bargaining” with court management over their contracts.

Service Employees International Union Local 1021 members took their lunch hours today to march on the sidewalk outside the courthouse adjacent to City Hall holding signs with slogans that read, “Will Strike For Justice” and “Bad Faith Bargaining.”

Chants over a megaphone such as “Strike, Strike, Strike,” showed that some union members would be casting their votes in favor of a strike.

SEIU 1021 organizer Steve Stallone said court workers began casting their votes today on whether to strike and will continue to be able to cast their votes until Monday.

He said court management basically “looked us in the eye and said we have a lot of money, but it’s not for you.”

Stallone attended this afternoon’s latest union bargaining committee meeting with court management following today’s rally and said as he expected nothing had changed.

Today’s rally directly targeted Michael Yuen, court executive officer for the San Francisco Superior Court.

Yuen is responsible for managing about 550 employees, oversees a $95 million budget and implements policies and procedures at the court, according to the Superior Court website.

Union members chanted, “Michael Yuen, You’re no good, Bargain fairly, Like you should.”

Stallone said the court workers are asking for 3 to 3.5 percent wage increases, but that court management has offered no proposed wage increases in response.

He said that the courts have $16 million in reserves but that court management is refusing to place it in the hands of workers.

The vote over striking is a last resort that the union turned to only after months of “futile” talks, Stallone said.

If the court workers go on strike, San Francisco’s entire justice system would be shut down, a scene that played out in a 2012 strike during the court workers’ previous contract negotiations.

The 2012 strike occurred after court management declared a 5 percent decrease in wages, Stallone said.

Among the supporters standing in solidarity with the court workers and members of SEIU 1021 today were San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar and San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi.

Mirkarimi, who is running for re-election in 2015, said he knows “how hard the people work” and said he stands with them in their struggle for fair wages.

Supervisor Mar said that while he hopes the courts aren’t shut down due to a strike, he said he understands that the court workers deserve fair treatment.

He said if the union calls a strike and court workers don’t show up for work, many people in San Francisco won’t have access to justice.

He said he hopes a middle ground can be found before that happens.

A tally of the votes is expected on Monday evening, Stallone said.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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