The San Francisco Superior Court leadership and clerks have reached an agreement that ends eight months of discord over wages, at least until the end of June next year, when the current two-year contract expires.
Negotiations that were punctuated by pickets and a one-day strike produced an agreement that gives most court employees five new floating holidays, or a two-percent bonus. The clerks must use the days or take the cash during the current fiscal year, which also ends on June 30, 2015.
The union's ratification of the agreement reveals that most of the members of the San Francisco court chapter of SEIU 1021 are willing to set aside their demands for a permanent salary increase for now.
San Francisco Superior spokeswoman Ann Donlan said the court is "pleased this is settled and the process is behind us." A tentative version of the agreement had been approved by the court's executive committee prior to the union vote, so it is immediately effective, she said.
Union representatives declined comment on the new agreement.
The stage for new wage talks was set two years ago, when San Francisco's clerks staged a one-day walkout to reverse a 5% pay cut the court had made as judicial budgets were being slashed across California.
At the end of the 2012 showdown, which also included a one-day strike, the two sides agreed to a $3,500 bonus plus a 3 percent pay increase. They also agreed then to hold new pay talks this year, building what has been called a "wage re-opener" into the current contract.
Sporadic negotiations started in April, when the clerks asked for a raise of between 2.5 and 5 percent. But union officials said then that the court had offered no money, just a couple of floating holidays.
The union, through its flyers and through comments from union leaders, accused the court of negotiating in "bad faith" by refusing any wage increase, despite having what the union said was a reserve fund of more than $16 million.
The protracted impasse also saw an admonition from the court's top administrator for the roughly 250 members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, who handle most of the court's clerical functions, to "be real."
Seeing no progress by September, union members picketed the Civic Center courthouse during their lunch hour. They also voted to authorize a strike.
Union chapter president Diane Williams told the crowd then: "I don't like getting disrespected. We want the money!"
During a one-day strike in October, the clerks claimed that court administrators were still negotiating in bad faith.
But Superior Court Executive Officer T. Michael Yuen said the next day that the action violated the current labor agreement and called the clerks the highest-paid state court employees in California.
In November, another lunch hour picket was held, this time in front of the Hall of Justice, San Francisco's criminal court.
Subsequent talks produced the deal that the rank and file approved this week. However, going into the vote, union bargaining team members would not endorse or disparage the deal's terms, instead saying they were "neutral."
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