Santa Clara County Courts at a Standstill|as Clerks’ Strike Heads Toward Day 6

     SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) — The Santa Clara Superior Court in downtown San Jose is part ghost town, part anger management session as a court worker strike waged on into a fifth day.
     The court usually bustles with people filing small claims and grabbing cases from the records department, but was nearly empty as clerks and janitors entered their fifth day of strike.
     People who did show up with court business stood in a single-file line about 25 bodies deep, awaiting the one person who explained why the services the citizen is requesting is not available due to the strike.
     Needless to say, there were not a lot of smiling faces as people leave the court.
     Some of the lawyers who work in the court also fret the stoppage could affect them.
     “I support the clerks,” said Steve Yarbrought, a probate attorney who was at the court Tuesday afternoon. “I have been practicing here for over 20 years and I have seen the caseload go up and the number of clerks keep going down.”     
     He said the clerks who do work in the court are awesome and knowledgeable, but often overwhelmed by the demands of the public versus the resources they have.
     David Dagnino, a clerk who works in the small claims division, was on the picket line Tuesday. He said when he started in the early 2000s there were 20 people in his division. Now it’s down to four.
     “The four of us take care of 2 million residents and we are not fairly compensated,” he said.
     Dagnino was joined by about 309 of his colleagues outside the Santa Clara Hall of Justice, as clerical and janitorial workers are demanding a pay raise they say has been withheld by court administration for eight years while the cost of living in Silicon Valley has exploded.
     “I’d say 70 percent of my salary goes to housing costs,” said Priscilla Jauregui, a legal process clerk who was also on the picket line on Saturday.
          Ingrid Stewart, president of the Superior Court Professional Employees Association, said there were more than 300 people in front of the Hall of Justice again on Tuesday.
     “We are in it to win it,” she said.
     As of press time, the union said they had not heard from court administration and no movement on ending the strike was on the horizon.
     The court administration says it cannot afford the raise the workers are demanding, given a $5 million dollar deficit due to a new funding formula instituted by the California court system that requires well-funded courts to siphon their money to courts in less populated areas.
     The administration also maintains they are committed to giving workers a net 9 percent raise.
     The union says it’s insufficient and blames administration for fiscal mismanagement and putting their money into frivolous facility upgrades rather than investing in workers.

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