SF Superior Settles With Workers

     SAN FRANCISCO – A deal between the clerks and the administration at San Francisco Superior Court was approved this week by the court’s executive committee, conclusively ending more than nine months without a labor agreement in place.
     What was expected to be a done deal in late October, when the clerks’ biggest union voted to accept the offer that had been made by the court, faced a setback in November when the executive committee, which comprises 11 of the court’s roughly 45 judges plus Presiding Judge Katherine Feinstein, rejected the deal.
     This week the same committee voted unanimously in favor of the deal, though it had not been changed.
     The committee also approved agreements with the court’s other unions. Those were signed in February, but had gone back onto the table over the 5 percent wage cut that became a rallying point for the court’s largest union, the Service Employees International Local 1021.
     Both the court and the union have characterized the new contract with Local 1021 as an improvement over the one that expired in February.
     “Employees have done their part to help the court through the unprecedented challenges of the past four years,” according to T. Michael Yuen, the court’s top administrator.
     “These agreements make fiscally-sound structural changes which benefit the court,” Yuen said.
     For their part, the members of Local 1021 liked the terms well enough to vote 215 to 1 to accept the agreement, which will be in place until July 2015 and calls for an immediate $3,500 bonus, a 3 percent pay hike next year and fresh wage negotiations in the third year.
     Supervisors must now respond to requests for variable schedules and clerks will get two more floating holidays, in addition to the four they currently receive.
     The clerks also succeeded in having the 5 percent wage cut reversed.
     Shortly after the union vote, union bargaining team member Priscilla Agbunag said, “Our voices have been heard.”
     Agbunag, a clerk in the civil division, said then, “We love our jobs and what we do and all we wanted was respect, and I believe they heard us.”
     Negotiations came to a head in July when the court imposed the cut, and union members responded with a one-day walkout.
     The sides talked into autumn, with the new package emerging in October. After the union’s overwhelming approval, though, the court’s executive committee voted the agreement down.
     California’s recent budget problems hit San Francisco Superior Court hard and set the stage for the labor dispute. In July 2011, Presiding Judge Feinstein announced that 200 court workers would lose their jobs in a belt-tightening that would also result in closed courtrooms, reduced public access and delays in justice across the system.
     In the end, 11 courtrooms were closed and 67 employees were let go, mainly court reporters.
     Two unions besides the Local 1021 represent workers at San Francisco Superior Court. One is the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 21, AFL-CIO, which includes staff attorneys and information technology workers. The other union is the Municipal Executives Association, representing supervisors.
     

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