San Jose Union Workers to Present County With New Contract Proposals Amid Contract Negotiations

Union representatives are presenting a new proposal to Santa Clara County Friday, the latest effort to end a labor impasse that has had county workers on strike since last week.

During a news conference Friday afternoon, union representatives from Service Employees International Union Local 521 said their negotiators had prepared a new proposal for Santa Clara County officials to look over through the weekend.

The union initiated a strike following allegations of unfair labor practice by the county for restructuring its Department of Family and Children's Services without properly negotiating. SEIU Local 521 is also seeking new contracts and higher wages.

Janet Diaz, the union's chapter president for Santa Clara County, said she is "hopeful the board will review our proposal with the best interests of our community."

The union temporarily postponed its strike this week during the Public Safety Power Shutoff and the local state of emergency declared by the county and San Jose.

"It is time the county does better by their community and their employees," Diaz said. "Our unfair labor practice strike is only on standby mode. Members are organized and ready to commence the work stoppage at a moment's notice."

Riko Mendez, chief elected officer for the union, said he could not share more details about the new proposal, except that it aims to address widespread vacancies throughout many county departments and offices. He said one out of every seven positions within the union sits vacant.

The county's board of supervisors will meet in closed session Saturday to discuss the union's new proposal.

Supervisor Dave Cortese said "whatever they propose, I guarantee it will get a good look tomorrow ..."

He said he hopes to see "movement" from the union on its demands, and an end to the strikes, calling them a "gut-punch" to county residents.

"Any day they're out is a gut-punch, there's no doubt about it.

It's not a gut-punch to the supervisors, it's a gut-punch to the entire community, and I don't think they want to do that, they're dedicated public servants, but of course they're trying to negotiate a contract on behalf of 12,000 employees and this is the way it's done," Cortese said.

"We respect the fact that they have the right to strike," he said.

"We also want to do whatever we can do to wrap things up as soon as possible so nobody is suffering from a lack of county services."

County Executive Jeffrey Smith could not be reached immediately for comment Friday.

Smith had previously said the county could not meet the union's demands, but that the county remains open to negotiations.

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