SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Sacramento County Superior Court’s largest employee union, consisting of court reporters, clerks and other technical workers, began a strike across four court locations Tuesday.
Strikers with the United Public Employees picketed outside the downtown Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse and the nearby county jail Tuesday morning, along with demonstrations at two other outlying Sacramento courthouses.
The union, which has been working without a contract since Sept. 31, says contract negotiations and mediation attempts have stalled.
“Our calls for a fair and livable wage have fallen on deaf ears. As all Sacramento residents know, the cost of living and rent in the region are only going up and as a result our workers are struggling to make ends meet,” the union said in a statement.
The union, which is not affiliated with the Service Employees International Union, represents over 400 employees – nearly two-thirds of the court’s total staff – and has been bargaining for a new deal since May. It’s a member-run, independent labor union and its members work in Sacramento County’s jails, courthouses and district attorney’s office.
The court countered that its offer is “fair and consistent” with other trial courts and that it’s willing to work with the state’s Judicial Council to end the labor dispute.
“The Court Executive Office must be financially prudent and NOT over-extend the court’s budget to keep the lights on and ensure that all financial commitments are met,” the court’s public information officer Kim Pedersen said in a statement.
Pedersen noted that 80-85 percent of the court’s current budget is already funneled to employee salaries and benefits and that the state budget does not include money for raises. The base annual salary of the striking workers ranges from $52,000 to $101,000, excluding benefits and other compensation.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the union hadn’t announced whether the strike will continue on Wednesday.
Courts remained open Tuesday despite the picket lines and other employees missing from duty, but there were impacts felt by the public. With many court reporters staying home, civil matters were postponed and jurors sent home. By noon, the jury parking lot was empty and the courtyard was unusually quiet.
In the civil records department, there were short lines at clerk windows and new complaints were still being made available to the media and public in timely fashion.
The union previously threatened a two-day strike in December 2015 after rejecting a mediator’s proposal for 3 percent raises and other benefits. The sides ultimately averted a strike and agreed on a three-year employment contract that included 4 percent raises in the first year and 2 percent in the second, along with a one-time bonus of $2,250 and the ability to cash out sick pay.
The union also recently opened up negotiations for its members at the Yuba County Superior Court, with the two sides planning to meet again on Thursday.