By BoNhia Lee – Posted by The Fresno Bee
Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 | 07:58 AM
Modified Mon, Jan 23, 2012 08:09 AM
A rainy morning didn’t stop members of the California Nurses Association from gathering in front of the Fresno County Jail at 6 a.m. today for the first day of a planned three-day strike by Fresno County employees.
About 10 members of the nurses union stood under red and white umbrellas at the corner of M and Fresno streets in downtown to let the public know they are upset about pay cuts and reduced funding for public health programs.
Members of the Service Employees International Union, representing 4,100 county employees, began the strike this morning in protest of a new contract that includes pay cuts of at least 9%.
Fresno County officials said last week that the strike won’t affect public safety, even with hundreds of jail guards poised to walk off the job. They said libraries, health clinics and service counters could close, and welfare programs may be suspended.
SEIU represents two-thirds of the county’s work force, with members in virtually every county department.
According an SEIU news release, workers will strike at more than a dozen locations, including the county Hall of Records.
There are about 77 nurses employed by Fresno County, said Don Nielsen, legal counsel for the nurses association.
Nancy LaPlace, a nurse who cares for foster children, said the low salaries discourage nurses from staying with the county health system and cuts to health programs hurt the clients she works with, especially children.
“This is a lifetime of service,” LaPlace said. “That’s why it hurts when it’s not being appreciated.”