San Francisco Court Workers Explain Today's Strike
|Not your typical day at the ol' courthouse.|
SF Weekly correspondent Jeff Sandstoe caught up with some of the nearly 200 demonstrators, who are being represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021.
"For the last five years we've given concessions," said court clerk Priscilla Agbunag. "We've done out part, and now they haven't given us the information that we need."
Recent state legislation aimed to fix the court system has pumped plenty of new monies into court coffers, but the workers say they haven't seen one dime of that. In fact, the courts have yet to reverse the staffing cuts that were made previously. On the contrary, 66 workers have been laid off in the past eight months, union members said.
The workers collectively met with management earlier this year to negotiate better deals for the court workers, but nothing was accomplished. And now workers say that management is refusing to come back to the bargaining table.
"This strike isn't a surprise," said Angelo Berto Gonzalez, a court clerk for seven years. "We've tried to bargain with management, but they haven't listened." Gonzalez said that in his seven years of working for the courts, he hasn't once received a raise. Instead, he faces fewer working hours because of the cuts.
So what does this strike mean for you? Services at the courts today are limited at best; only a few courtrooms are open and staffed by management who is filling in for those on strike. T. Michael Yuen, court executive officer, sent out a news release, stating that earlier, the union has erroneously claimed it closed down the courts.
"The Court is committed to assuring that all essential functions proceed in spite of this misguided action by employees who are jeopardizing access to justice for their own unjustified reasons," Yuen said.
What that means is if you were planning to take today off to get a divorce, sadly, you might have to live with your spouse one more day.
"It's important that people know that this is not about money.... We don't have enough people working in the courts," said Diane Williams, a clerk of 20 years. The forced days of closure, along with reduced hours and staff, have had negative consequences for everyday people who need to use the court systems."
"It's not about us, it's about the people waiting in line for hours just to process a ticket," Williams added.
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