Board of Supervisors must intervene to reach a settlement by 4 p.m. Feb 27th
Press release submitted by Victor Gamiz with Service Employees International Union, Local 521
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – 12,000 workers who serve the public, including 911 dispatchers, social workers, health/hospital workers and nurses, park workers, janitors, clerks, roads and maintenance workers, among others are set to begin an unfair labor practice strike on Friday, February 28 unless the Board of Supervisors intervenes. The Board will meet in closed session on Monday, February 24th, with public comment scheduled for 2 PM.
“The County is proposing eliminating the wage increase for June 2020 that they included in their Last, Best and Final offer of 2019,” said Janet Diaz, Patient Services Clerk at VMC and Santa Clara County Chapter P. “This is not only illegal, but a deliberate attack on the livelihoods of workers who not only serve the public, but who are residents of this county. The Board of Supervisors must intervene to avoid a county wide strike set for this week.”
The current strike announcement comes nine months after the contract expiration between frontline employees and the County. The dispute included a 10-day strike in October, 2019 followed by voluntary mediation in November, 2019. Key issues are short staffing and turnover resulting from low pay and mismanagement. Until recently, it appeared that agreement was close but now the County CEO is moving backwards by insisting on a new offer with roughly $110 million less in raises than what had been offered by the County in its “Last, Best, and Final Offer” of October 15, 2019. By eliminating a previously-offered raise of 3% in June 2020, the new proposal would cause the essential front line workers – already low paid – to fall even further behind others employed by the County.
“Cancelling a proposed raise and removing other items which had already been agreed upon are a clear attempt by Jeff Smith, the County CEO to derail a potential settlement,” Diaz added. “Hundreds of public workers have shared our issues of economic insecurities, workplace safety concerns and staffing shortages. The Board of Supervisors are the elected leaders and have an obligation to their constituents to direct Smith to stop these unfair labor practices and reach a fair settlement.”
CEO Smith has also been publicly criticized for his mishandling of the recent acquisition of O’Connor and St. Louise hospitals, and the failure of the Department of Social Services to meet the needs of neglected and abused children.
Santa Clara County workers represented by SEIU Local 521 have been without a contract since July 17, 2019. 97% percent of its members voted in August to authorize an unfair labor practices strike. County workers started to strike over unfair labor practices on October 2nd and for the first time in 40 years. The strike was in response to the County’s reorganization of the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) without discussing the changes with the employees who do the work. The County’s reorganization plan included the closure of the San Jose Family Resource Center and many other changes that would negatively impact families and the workers who serve them.
Following a civil disobedience on Sept. 19 and the strike, the County Board of Supervisors decided on Oct. 22 to postpone the closure of San Jose Family Resource Center pending further review for location options or potential stay by. The Receiving, Assessment and Intake Center (RAIC) is now separating children based on needs, a safety concern social workers had raised with the County for years. Francesca LeRúe, the DFCS Director who led the relocation effort of the SJFRC and unilateral changes to the DFCS, has since left her post.
On Thursday, Oct. 31, Santa Clara County and SEIU Local 521 agreed to enter voluntary mediation. As part of the agreement, SEIU Local 521 suspended voting on the County’s “Last, Best, and Final Offer” (“LBFO”), as well as suspended all work stoppages. The County agreed to no longer be constrained by its “Last, Best, and Final Offer” during mediation. Additionally, the County agreed to rescind its unilateral change to the sick, paid-time off, and vacation leave policy. In January, at the request of the County, the two parties resumed negotiations after the County agreed to once again not be constrained by their Last, Best, and Final Offer.
Service Employees International Union, Local 521 represents 12,000 public-sector workers across Santa Clara County. Under a Community First vision, we are committed to making sure the needs of our community, and the vital services we provide our community, come first. We believe our communities thrive when residents, leaders and workers recognize that we are all in this together when it comes to our safety, health, and well-being.