San Jose

Santa Clara County Superior Court Clerks' Strike is On After Failed Protest

Santa Clara County Superior court clerks will go on strike starting Wednesday after a protest at the Hayes Mansion in San Jose on Monday failed to sway a return to the bargaining table.

The Superior Court Professional Employees Association issued a 24-hour written notice for a strike late Monday. The union says the workers feel overworked and underpaid.

"They’re very frustrated, they’re determined," said court specialist Ingrid Stewart, the union's president. "Of course they’re scared. They don’t want to do this; this is one of the hardest things to do."

The protesters chose the mansion because they were trying to get the attention of state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, who was there, attending a regular conference of the judicial council on Monday.

"The court system hasn't been supportive for quite some time," said Superior Court clerk Donna Miranda. "Others have gotten raises, but we haven't."

Joseph Macaluso, a representative of Superior Court of Santa Clara County, issued a statement in response to the strike.

"It's terribly unfortunate that it has come to this, which will surely impact access to justice," he said. "However, the Court will do everything it can to maintain essential operations and continue to serve the public in the face of this work stoppage."

Last week, the clerks authorized a strike, according to union spokesman Tom Saggau, adding that he had hoped the protest would sway the judges to use their influence and help move contract negotiations.

Court management has offered the union 4.5 percent raises this year and last, along with an immediate 5 percent raise this year, all of which the union turned down.

Saggau explained that the contract proposal did not offer any raises in the second year, which he said was unacceptable. He said the top step of a union worker in Santa Clara County was $64,000 after 30 years, compared to a court clerk employee in San Francisco, who earns "north of $90,000." Saggau said he thought raises of up to 3 percent for the second year would be "fair and reasonable."

NBC Bay Area
Santa Clara County Superior court clerk holds a sign up "8 YRS NO COLA OR JUSTICE" on Monday morning at the Hayes Mansion in San Jose demanding higher pay. August 1, 2016

Workers say the strike will impact just about every court, slowing down proceedings at traffic court, family court and small claims, as well as paperwork for gun purchases, writs and domestic violence victims.

"I've been with the court for 30-years, and it's very scary," court specialist Shelly Carey said about a looming strike. "I've done it before, and it's a lot of hard work, a lot of trying to convince people, a lot of making people understand what your story is."

Carey said the group is ready for the long run.

"What other chance are we going to have to show the public and show the court we are serious?" she said.

The SCPEA represents about 400 clerks, janitors, and legal researchers. Dozens carried signs Monday morning that bore slogans such as "More Work, Less Pay."

Stewart said that employees need a raise just for one year, especially since the Bay Area is so expensive. She said she wanted the judges' support because "they're the ones who have a lot of say in how much we get paid. They could help a great deal."

Read the union's official strike notification letter here.

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