Business

Santa Clara County CEO calls four-day worker strike ‘despicable’


Santa Clara County workers continued their rolling strike for a fourth day on Saturday, with no apparent end to the work stoppages in sight, as both county and union officials dug in on their positions.

Union members from Service Employees International Union Local 521 demonstrated Saturday morning outside the annual Fall Festival at Martial Cottle Park in South San Jose. The demonstrators included dozens of county park workers, who were joined on the picket lines by hundreds of other county workers in solidarity, a union spokesman said.

Some 911 dispatchers also picketed outside the county communications center.

“We came here to connect with the community members that are attending the festival to share with them some of the concerns that we have regarding staffing and turnover, and workload issues, as well,” union spokesman Victor Gamiz said by phone from the park.

The union says the strike is largely about unfair labor practices, like county plans to relocate a family resource center.

But on Saturday, the county’s top administrator, Santa Clara County CEO Jeff Smith said: “It’s an illegal strike. Period.”

“The reality is the strike is about money and negotiations at the table over salaries,” he said. “The other stuff with the asserted unfair labor practices is completely bogus.”

Daniel McCulloch, a negotiator for the union and a park maintenance worker, said the county is putting too much pressure on workers across the board.

“We’ve seen a trend of the upper management and staff getting more people, but for the lower echelon, staffing and workload has been a big problem,” he said, and has led to inadequate maintenance and upkeep at county parks.

Gamiz said staffing shortages and too much turnover at social services outposts are sometimes leaving vulnerable populations in the county like children and seniors without the help they need.

Gamiz said roughly 450 workers in all walked picket lines today, including about 15 dispatchers for the county.

The county and union had worked out “essential employee” agreements to ensure that public safety isn’t put at risk during the strike, so while some dispatchers were striking others werestill staffing phones, officials said.

While the union has filed 15 unfair labor practice complaints against the county, Gamiz said, its biggest problem with the county is the “unilateral” decision to relocate the Family Resource Center from the east side of San Jose to the west side, without negotiating with workers first.

Smith pushed back on that claim Saturday, saying the county notified the union about the relocation, and isn’t legally required to negotiate with them about a location change.

The county filed its own unfair practice charge against the union Friday, claiming, among other things, that the workers violated the law by going on strike before it was clear that no deal over a contract could be reached.

Smith said the union only filed the unfair labor practice complaints to create a justification for a strike, instead of going through a longer process of fact-finding and declaring an impasse with the county over salaries and benefits.

The two sides have been bargaining for six months …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business

      

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