Santa Clara County

Thousands of Santa Clara County Union Workers Set to Strike

Santa Clara County's largest union is on the verge of a strike.

The union includes 911 dispatchers, public health nurses and many others. The union voted to strike if they can't reach a contract agreement with the county by Tuesday

The union has complained of unfair labor practices and worker shortages. The county says it's taking those concerns seriously and is close to making a deal

The county says even if workers do walk off the job tomorrow 911 service will not be interrupted.

SEIU 521 spokeswoman Khanh Weinberg told NBC Bay Area last week that 97 percent of the union members comprising of 911 dispatchers, janitors, librarians and nurses, voted to authorize the strike last Tuesday. Workers voted to hold an "open-ended" strike with no end date.

“It was a very difficult choice for our members to do because they’re the ones, they’re the front line workers," said Luisa Blue, chief elected officer of SEIU Local 521. "They’re the ones that continue to provide vital services to our community here in Santa Clara County, and they do so under very difficult situations.”

According to Weinberg, the union is upset about a 35 percent staff shortage within the 911 communications department, and social services and public health nurse shortages.

In addition, the union is also saying that the county retaliates against active union members "who have led concerted efforts to call attention to crises in the county." The union has filed four Unfair Practice Charges with the Public Employment Relations Board against the county for choosing to "interfere in union business; unilaterally eliminate alternate work hours as a form of retaliation; single out SEIU leaders with unfavorable reports; and unilaterally change sick leave policies to scare workers out of striking," the union stated.

The current contract expired June 21 and was extended for two days.

The SEIU, Service Employees International Union, is an organization of 2.1 million members around the country. In Santa Clara County, the local chapter represents social workers, road workers, eligibility workers and other county workers. The union held a 10 a.m. news conference attended by dozens of workers carrying signs that read "Community First" and "County in Crisis! We didn't start the fire, but we're trying to fight it."

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