SEIU Violating No-Strike Clause in Current Agreement; Court to File PERB Charge
SAN FRANCISCO -- Clerical court employees are engaging in an unlawful strike under a current contract that already awarded them a $3,500 one-time payment in early 2013 and a 3 percent salary increase on July 1, 2013, Court Executive T. Michael Yuen announced today.
Members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 1021, went on strike today in violation of their 3-year contract, which contains a no-strike provision. The Court will seek an injunction to enjoin the strike and file a charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) because the SEIU contract – which took effect December 5, 2012 and expires on June 30, 2015 – contains a no-strike provision (Section IX A).
The unlawful strike is causing delays in Civil, Criminal and Family law cases; but the Court did not close its doors. Instead Court management shifted its resources to criminal and other cases with statutory deadlines. Drop boxes were placed in all clerks’ offices for filings that will be stamped with today’s date.
“The Court values its employees and rewarded them last year for their expertise and dedicated service during the Recession-related budget crisis,” Yuen said. “We recognize that the past six years have been difficult after staff layoffs, furloughs and a Court-wide reorganization. However, the Court does not currently have the resources to further increase the salaries of the highest-paid Court employees in California.”
Courtroom clerks in the San Francisco Superior Court earn $7,386 monthly, which is 27 percent higher than San Mateo employees and 28 percent higher than Los Angeles employees.
Public sector salaries in San Francisco tend to be higher than similar jobs elsewhere in California due to the high cost of living in the Bay Area. However, incremental state budget restorations are not enough to overcome the cumulative yearly decreases to the Court’s allocation of state funding as a result of a new Judicial Branch funding formula. The Court will lose $7.8 million by FY 2017-18, which is the last year of the 5-year phase-in period of the new formula.
Another factor that has adversely impacted the Court’s ability to manage deficits related to state budget cuts and the decreases from the funding formula is the new prohibition that prevents a Court from saving more than 1 percent of its operating budget. Through deft fiscal management and cost-cutting, the Court had managed to save $15.78 million to cover expenses and annual deficits. However the Court had to use this one-time money by June 30, 2014 in lieu of forfeiting it to state coffers. Under this new state law, the Court may save only $800,000 a year, which is not enough to cover a single, bi-weekly employee payroll.
The Court made a sizeable investment in its workforce by devoting about one-third of its $15.78 million savings to pay for the future cost of employee healthcare. The Court has created a special trust account devoted solely to fund future employee retiree healthcare, which is allowed under state law.
“What SEIU fails to acknowledge is that the Court already has devoted $5.2 million of our savings to them,” Mr. Yuen said. “This is a significant commitment to employees to assure the Court is able to cover its commitment to retirees even in the face of escalating cuts to our bottom line. We can’t afford to use one-time money to pay for ongoing wage increases.”
The majority of the remaining savings is being used to improve court facilities for jurors, litigants, attorneys and staff. Projects include:
- Install security upgrades to protect staff;
- Replacement of worn and unsafe carpets, which are a trip and fall hazard to the public and staff;
- Paint public areas in two courthouses;
- Reupholster chairs for jurors;
- Purchase of a new case management system for the entire Court to replace three antiquated case management systems that do not have the ability to interface with each other; and
- Install new signs to better direct visitors to their destinations.
Lastly, the Court has bargained in good faith with SEIU and all of its labor unions under existing contracts that called for meetings to discuss wages during the life of the contracts. The Court met with SEIU six times since May 2014. During the most recent session on September 24, the Court made its most recent offer, which included two additional floating holidays and a buy-back provision for three floating holidays before the end of the fiscal year.
“No union leadership team is pleased at the table when we have to tell them we are unable to provide any additional, ongoing pay increases,” Mr. Yuen said. “Most labor teams were disappointed, but they understand the math. SEIU refuses to accept that the Court remains on fragile financial footing from multiple years of state budget cuts, a funding formula that cuts our bottom line more every year, and a new requirement that limits our flexibility by capping our savings at $800,000.”
The Court’s other labor unions are the Municipal Executives Association; International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), Local 21; and the San Francisco Court Reporters Association/IFPTE, Local 21.