SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Superior Court clerks returning to work Wednesday after a one-day strike need to "be real," their boss said, calling them the highest-paid state court employees in California.
"Dirty" was how San Francisco Superior Court Executive Officer T. Michael Yuen described the Tuesday strike by roughly 250 workers, saying it violated their current labor agreement.
Outside, picketers wearing the purple color of their union's logo chanted that San Francisco is a union town. They say the court has played unfairly to avoid giving them a 3 percent to 5 percent pay raise.
Yuen meanwhile noted that the striking clerks already earn up to $88,000 a year, a salary 27 percent higher than clerks are paid in nearby San Mateo County, or in Los Angeles County, the state's largest court.
"Yet, here in San Francisco, we're being told by [the union], 'We want the money.' There's a disconnect," he said.
Reacting to the top clerk's comments, Steve Stallone, a spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, called the court's salary figures "lies."
"The average clerk does not make that much," he said, describing a pay ladder that starts at around $46,000 per year. Stallone noted that climbing to the top pay scale, which is in the $80,000 range, takes many years.
"Tell him to live here on that salary," he said.
Both sides claim the legal high ground.
Union leaders say the strike was called to protest the court's unfair labor practices, which they claim have taken the form of stonewalling by the court's bargaining team.
Court managers say the union breached a no-strike provision in the current labor agreement, which was made with workers in 2012 at the end of a months-long showdown that included a one-day strike.
The two-year-old deal, which expires next summer, reversed a brief 5 percent pay cut, paid each court worker a $3,500 bonus plus a 3 percent wage increase, and provided an opening for further wage talks.
As part of its response to Tuesday's strike, court officials said they are filing a complaint over the union's tactics with California's Public Employment Relations Board.
The union's Stallone said strike activity in response to the court's alleged unfair labor practices is legally sanctioned and trumps the labor agreement's no-strike provision.
"This court should be a beacon of justice, but it's a rogue court," Stallone said.
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