The Fresno Bee: Fresno County workers strike; officials say most services intact

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By BoNhia Lee and Kurtis Alexander – The Fresno Bee
Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 | 07:58 AM Modified Mon, Jan 23, 2012 03:54 PM

2:05 p.m.: County officials are reporting that as many as 1,500 employees participated in today’s strike. Service Employee International Union has 4,100 county members and makes up about two-thirds of the county workforce.

Union representatives said the employees are making their point.
“These three days will show the services that we provide,” SEIU representative Kevin Smith said. “I don’t know what else would change [the county’s] minds except this right here.”

1:20 p.m.: Fresno County Librarian Laurel Prysiazny said in a news release that 16 of the county’s 34 library branches are open today, and are scheduled to remain open through the course of the scheduled three-day strike.

The open branches are Central Library, Auberry, Caruthers, Clovis Regional, Fig Garden Regional, Fowler, Kerman, Pinedale, Politi, Reedley, Riverdale, Sanger, Sunnyside Regional, West Fresno and Woodward Park Regional.
Any updates on the branches will be posted on the library system’s website, Prysiazny said.

11:45 a.m.: Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims released a statement this morning:
“There has been no impact at the Fresno County Jail as a result of the SEIU job action. All correctional officers reported for duty for the day shift. A small percentage of support staff participated in the strike and the only public impact thus far is the closure of the Civil window in the lobby of the Sheriff’s Office.
“I want to assure the public I will take every measure to see that the jail remains secure and that the inmates are supervised.”

10:40 a.m.: Despite hundreds of Fresno County workers walking off the job this morning, county officials say most public services are uninterrupted.
The chief concern has been the jail, where guards are among the 4,100-member Service Employee International Union that is striking for three days in protest of wage cuts. All but one guard showed up for work today, however, alleviating fears of a staffing shortfall.
“You may see a large number of folks on the strike line … [but] it appears all essential services are being provided for,” County Administrative Officer John Navarette said.

Some hitches in county business were reported.
About 90% of the correctional officers at Juvenile Hall went on strike, forcing county managers to bring in other employees to replace them.
At least half of the county’s 34 library branches have not opened today because of the staffing shortage.
Other county divisions, such as the District Attorney’s Office and the Assessor’s Office, were short of support staff, slowing business or stopping some work altogether.
Still, no major problems have been reported, and core programs remain in service, from food stamps, child support, Medi-Cal and CalWorks to the public service counters offering marriage licenses and tax collection.
The number of employees who didn’t come to work today remains to be figured. SEIU leaders said they had commitments to strike from half of their members.
One of the striking workers was Joan Cuadros, a secretary in the financial crimes unit of the District Attorney’s Office.
“We are not wealthy people. We are making a big sacrifice today,” she said.
Cuadros, like many union members, said she knew she would get a salary cut, but doesn’t like the way the county forced it on employees.
“The lack of negotiation is frightening,” she said.
The county’s rank and file workers received a pay reduction of at least 9% in December.

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