Strikers interrupt county supervisor’s coffee break

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — A group of striking county employees confronted Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson and posted the incident on YouTube. It happened last Monday at the McDonald’s restaurant in Kerman.

The caption on the video posted on YouTube reads, “What Phil Larson thinks about you.” Larson told Action News he was surprised by the confrontation.

“They walked in the door about 20 0f them, circled the table and started, all of them, yakking and talking, just challenged me.”

The union members were upset about the county’s decision to break off contract talks and unilaterally impose a 9% pay cut on employees.

About half of the more than 4,000 county employees represented by the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU took part in a three day strike. While most marched with picket signs around county offices in Downtown Fresno, a small group decided to have a face to face meeting with Larson.

In the video SEIU member Kevin Westbrook told Larson the county’s pay cuts were too much. Westbook told Larson: “A pay cut of 9% for someone making $20 to $25 thousand that’s the difference between keeping electricity on and putting food on the table. For someone like yourself, who makes $105 (thousand) of our taxpayer dollars…”

Larson interrupted: “I make $107, (thousand) get it right.”

In the video Larson responded to Westbrook’s claim that he wasn’t sensitive to the plight of county workers saying they should be grateful to have jobs. “I am sick and tired of you folks coming in here bellyaching. They say I’m insensitive. You’re darn right I’m insensitive to people who have a good job and the best benefits in the state.”

Larson has seen the video and told Action News: “I stand by what I said. I agree with what I said, I’m not backing down.”

Westbrook is back at his job at the Juvenile Justice Campus and wasn’t available to respond. The man running the camera, James Geluso, the SEIU’s communications director told Action News by phone from Bakersfield, about the confrontation he said: “It was part of our strike action. It was an effort to reach out to Phil Larson to bring him back to the table.”

The state Public Employment Relations Board summoned the county and the union to an informal meeting in Sacramento on Thursday. The SEIU issued a press release saying the county’s negotiators were going to advise the Board of Supervisors to go back to the bargaining table. But Fresno County Administrative Officer John Navarette told Action News on Friday that the county was still assessing it’s position. The recommendations of the county’s negotiating team will be presented to the Supervisors during a closed session at their meeting next Tuesday.

See the video news story at ABC 30’s site.

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