Fresno County workers prepare to strike: “I am not afraid, I’m mad!”

John Jasper, a member of the bargaining team, tells members about his experiences trying to negotiate a fair contract.

Thousands of Fresno County workers will strike for three days, starting Monday, Jan. 23. The strike is because the Board of Supervisors refused to negotiate┬áin good faith and imposed working conditions on employees without the protection of a contract even while workers were voting on the county’s offer.

“Now it’s time to draw a line in the sand and take a stand,” said Kevin Westbrook, a juvenile corrections officer and member of the bargaining team.

Westbrook and other members described a bargaining process that the county treated as a joke. One member of the county team spent whole sessions texting on her phone. And the county started by introducing a package of 700 proposals that they said had to be accepted all together or not at all.

“It’s just outrageous how much they’re not willing to negotiate,” said Diana Calderon, a bargaining team member and eligibility worker.

It’s so outrageous that even the state Public Employee Relations Board, made up of two Republicans and two Democrats and rarely willing to call a county out for its failure to bargain fairly, has announced charges against Fresno County.

“If we don’t strike now, the Board of Supervisors will just attack workers again in a year,” said Richard Solis, bargaining team member and a mental health specialist.

The hundreds of members who turned out in Fresno Thursday night are ready to give up three days’ pay to demand respect.

As eligibility worker Carol Neff put it, shouting from the audience, “I’m not afraid, I’m mad!”

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