Santa Clara County Superior Court Employees Claim Money Spent on New Building Could Have Raised Wages - NBC Bay Area
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Santa Clara County Superior Court Employees Claim Money Spent on New Building Could Have Raised Wages

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    The stakes were raised Friday in an ongoing strike by Santa Clara County superior court clerks and employees. Robert Handa reports. (Published Friday, Aug. 5, 2016)

    The stakes were raised Friday in an ongoing strike by Santa Clara County superior court clerks and employees.

    NBC Bay Area broke the news of the strike when it began Wednesday with a picket line at the Hall of Justice. On Friday, that protest — and accompanying public attention — shifted to the county’s new $200 million court building on First Street.

    The new structure stands across the street from the older courthouse, but is a source of resentment among striking workers. Some of the money that was used to pay for the new elegant building should have gone to them, they said, chanting, “Shame, shame.”

    The 380-member union walked out Wednesday in a dispute over wages and staffing.

    Strikers call the new project extravagant. Travertine stone blocks were handpicked from a quarry in Rome and then brought to the United States, they said. That decision came with a price tag of more than $3 million.

    “The majority of us have never been to Rome,” said union president Ingrid Stewart. “That must have been some trip.”

    Workers also pointed out that the building uses some steel that was made in Thailand and woodwork from Canada.

    “Their priorities are on things and not on their employees – the glue that holds this place together,” Stewart said.

    Meanwhile, the strike went into its third day Friday. Many attorneys told NBC Bay Area that the chaos inside the court is getting worse each day.

    “It's been a mess,” said Max Zarzana of the Government Attorneys Association. “Small calendars have been taking a long time and things are just getting continued or passed. It's messy and it's horrible.”

    For its part, court management said the building, which will help deliver services at lower costs to the public, was paid for by state funds. But the union disputed that claim by saying the county contributed about $3 million.

    The strike is scheduled to resume Monday.

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