SEIU 1021 San Francisco court workers continued their push for a wage increase Wednesday, Sept. 24 with their second courthouse rally in two weeks, this time ramping up the pressure by kicking off a strike authorization vote at the same time.
As more than 100 purple-clad workers marched and chanted with picket signs and buttons reading “I’ll strike for justice” in front of the Civic Center Courthouse, they took turns lining up at tables on either side of the building’s entrance to cast secret ballots on whether to give the union bargaining team the power and discretion to call a strike should they decide talks continue to go nowhere.
The workers are in the final year of a three-year contract they won in 2012. Since during those negotiations management claimed it didn’t know if its budget could afford a raise in 2014, both sides agreed to a “wage reopener”—a new negotiation over wages only. Talks have dragged on for months and even though management acknowledged it has $16 million in reserves, it has responded to every union proposal by refusing to give one penny to the workers, sparking charges of bad faith bargaining. Frustrated and angry, the workers’ vote is their first step toward asserting their power to strike.
“YES” is the union response to the employer’s “NO”
San Francisco Court chapter President Diane Williams, also a member of the bargaining team and a clerk in the Traffic Dept. at the Hall of Justice, reviewed the union’s futile attempts at the bargaining table and exhorted her gather members to vote “YES” for the strike. From the crowd’s response it did not seem like they needed much convincing.
A couple of local progressive electeds, Supervisor Eric Mar and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, took the mic, acknowledging the court workers’ hard and important labor, calling their cause righteous and offering their support.
Forward to the past
The strike threat is credible since these workers had done it just two years ago. On July 1, 2012 management imposed a 5% pay cut, throwing fuel on smoldering anger. Like this time, the workers had voted to grant the bargaining team authority to call a strike when they saw fit. No one but the bargaining team knew when that would be and they toyed with management’s attempts to prepare, spreading rumors that it would be this day or that until the guessing game grew tiresome.
Then on Monday morning, July 16, leaders walked through the courthouses and told everyone it was now. Grab your picket sign and walking shoes and hit the line outside. SEIU 1021 members poured out. All San Francisco’s justice system screeched to a halt, replaced by cheering and picketing strikers.
To give all San Francisco SEIU 1021 court workers ample opportunity to have their voices heard, voting will continue at lunch hour Thursday, Friday and Monday. The bargaining team will count the ballots at the union’s hall in San Francisco on Rhode Island Street at 6 pm and will announce the results. All court workers are invited to the count.
Links to media coverage of the rally and strike vote:
SF Appeal/Bay City News: http://sfappeal.com/2014/09/court-workers-decide-whether-or-not-to-strike-over-stalled-contract-negotiations/
KCBS : http://tinyurl.com/kghrwbv
Courthouse News Service: http://www.courthousenews.com/2014/09/24/71777.htm
SEIU 1021 Flickr show: https://www.flickr.com/photos/89592077@N08/sets/72157647588221050/