Santa Clara County workers reject county’s offer, approve strike authorization

Santa Clara County members count votes

Santa Clara County members tally the votes Aug. 13.

With a resounding 96 % vote of support, Santa Clara County members overwhelmingly rejected the county’s last offer and authorized our bargaining team to call a strike if necessary.

After months of negotiations in which the county failed to reach a reasonable agreement, our bargaining team rejected the county’s last offer and called for a strike authorization vote from the membership.

The final vote means our Bargaining Team and members have more strength at the bargaining table to protect services and provide a cutting-edge workforce to serve our community.

“We now see where members stand. We are united to make things better for our community and for the residents that we serve. Now it’s time to take our next steps to get to where we all need to be. Together we can make a change.”
Melanie Martinez, Senior Health Services Representative, CAT Team member

At stake in negotiations are community services and getting a fair contract that allows the county to recruit, train, and retain quality workers.

The economy has improved and Silicon Valley is once again a powerful economic engine, but many families are suffering. Now more than ever our county must invest in services and ensure a quality workforce to meet needs of our community.

Thanks to the CAT Team and Bargaining Team for all of your hard work and to all members for taking a stand for our community services! County workers are the heart of our community.

What’s next:

1) Prepare for a real strike by saving money now and talking with your friends and family.

2) All hands on deck! Join the Contact Action Team (CAT) and find out how you can help with strike preparations. Email

3) Management will spread rumors about workers not being able to strike. It is our right to strike. Report on any county officials who actively try to prevent workers from striking. We will pursue all appropriate legal action against the county for interfering with workers’ rights to strike. Call the union office at (408) 678-3300 to make a report.

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42 Responses to “Santa Clara County workers reject county’s offer, approve strike authorization”

  1. Sue Conde says:

    What happens to our health insurance when we strike? Do we have any?

    • wrenbradley says:

      Hello Sue, I am your chapter chair and I can assure you that your negotiating team is well aware of the issue with health care. Since insurance is taken out every two weeks from our paycheck, we will be cognizant of when we need to call a strike. Almost 3500 people voted today for this refusal to accept the county contract. Between our rally last night, voting yesterday and today and our action at the Board of Supervisors, we had almost 4500 members engaged in activity in our union. This does not go unnoticed! I want to personally thank with great humility all of our members who attended any of these actions and showed just how strong our union really is. We must stay united and show our strength of force because we do represent the community and we serve this community. Community first and always!

      wRen Bradley, Chapter Chair
      Social Worker, DFCS

      • Rick says:

        so what is the answer to Sue Conde’s question? Are we insured during a strike?

        • Muriel E Frederick says:

          Once a contract expires, most terms of the contract remain in place until such time as the employer and Union agree to different terms or reach an impasse and the employer imposes different terms. To put it simply….yes, you still have coverage.

          Muriel Frederick
          Vice Chair – Clerical Bargaining Unit
          Region 1 Vice President – SCC and San Mateo County

          • Rick says:

            thank you very much for your reply.
            A lot of us are nervous or even scared about the prospects of a strike, anything that reduces the FUD is welcome :)

  2. Benjamin Bilbro says:

    #1 Since the latest extension expired August 11, 2013, does that mean we are working without a contract or has another extension been established? The reason I ask is simply because I have read nothing of such a vital update on the SEIU Local 521 website. To the average individual with little or no knowledge of this ongoing process, one could easily assume we are working without a contract since the extension ran out last Sunday.

    #2 Please correct me if I am wrong but under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (Article 23) there is a no-strike clause; therefore for us to strike without violating any agreement made between Santa Clara County and SEIU Local 521, we must take a risk and work without a contract. And to work without a contract, a specific percentage of all members must vote agreeing to do so.

    #3 It is my belief, shared by other more knowledgeable members, that working without a contract should not be undertaken until members have discussed both the advantages and disadvantages more thoroughly.

    And though there has been astounding support for a strike, do my fellow members of SEIU Local 521 thoroughly understand all the potential disadvantages of working without a contract beyond not getting paid for the duration of a strike? The reason I ask is because, in my department/program alone, just on the surface, the majority of the members do not even have a knowledgeable grasp of the Collective Bargaining Agreement; continually give misleading information to new union employees within the department/program; willingly have not attended any of the rallies and/or the vote which took place yesterday, August 12th, at 70 W Hedding; and when asked, do not even know the name of our shop steward. Do I believe the department/program I work for is a special case? I highly doubt it. Such unfortunate ignorance surely resonates across many departments/programs.

    Without further ado, thanks to the support of Robert M. Schwartz, a union-side labor lawyer and author, below are some additional disadvantages which should be clearly understood by my fellow members of SEIU Local 521, and perhaps more importantly, at this point in the negotiations, such information should be made readily available on the opening page of the SEIU Local 521 website and/or emailed to all members in the same fashion we receive all other updates and/or advisories.


    There are three downsides to letting a contract expire:

    Union security. After expiration, an employer can cease observing the union shop or agency shop aspects of the contract. New employees will not be required to join the union or pay dues.

    Dues check-off is another matter. Until 2012, the NLRB and the courts permitted employers to halt dues collection when a contract expired—deterring many unions from pursuing a work-without-a-contract strategy. But, in a game-changing ruling involving Cleveland’s WKYC-TV, the NLRB ruled its prior policy was in error.

    Now an employer must continue dues check-off during the no-contract period—in the same way it must maintain other provisions of the agreement. Employers have lost a valuable weapon.

    Arbitration. An employer can refuse to arbitrate grievances filed after a contract expires, except those that concern events or rights that occurred before expiration.

    Losing the right to take new matters to arbitration makes it more difficult to fight discharges and discipline. However, the union can strike or threaten to strike over such actions, and it can file ULP charges if the discipline is based on concerted activity, such as handbilling or informational picketing.

    Matters bargained to impasse. Under some conditions, expiration allows an employer to implement part or all of its “last best” offer. This is not as easy as some employers assume. A final offer may not be implemented unless the parties are at a good-faith impasse on the contract as a whole. Deadlock on a single issue is not sufficient, unless the issue causes a complete breakdown in negotiations.

    Acting with purpose, a union can forestall a bargaining impasse for months or longer.

    In conclusion, and repeating a paragraph from above, it is my belief, shared by other more knowledgeable members, that working without a contract should not be undertaken until members have discussed and thoroughly understand both the advantages and disadvantages. And again, especially regarding the disadvantages, I have come across very little vital information on the SEIU Local 521 website and/or informational flyers being handed out.

    Working without a Contract: A Strategy Whose Time Has Come? (2013). Retrieved August 8, 2013, from

    On a whole different note, I read there was a 96% vote of support by Santa Clara County members who overwhelmingly rejected the county’s last offer and authorized our bargaining team to call a strike if necessary. I am curious to know what is the total of all votes cast. Will such data ever be posted for members to see? Such publicly shared information will assist in acknowledging just how many members, out of the whole, are actively speaking out in regard to this current movement.

    • wRen Bradley says:

      I will be glad to respond to all your inquiries either here tonight. Or you can send me personal email at We cannot post our offers to management on website as they change each time we meet but we do send out emails to those for whom we have a personal email.
      We are working without a contract now but will continue to bargain. We have side tables set up for Thursday and master o. Friday. There is a CAT meeting tomorrow night at union hall 6 pm..Approximately 3200 members voted over two short days so that is the largest number we have ever had vote. I understand we have more work on the communication end of our union to get info to all. This has been a frustration for me as well but as your chapter chair, [which is a volunteer position). You can always vet updates from already have personal email to contact.

      • Jimmie Sue Knight says:

        I have given my personal email, and I still feel like I’m not given complete info. It would be nice if someone who knows sent a thorough email with detailed info. We can’t all attend every meeting. I’m out in the field most of the time and don’t even get the ‘gossip’ around the water cooler. By the way I do appreciate that you do volunteer and do what you can. I just expect more from my union, afterall, my dues alone are over $100.00/month.

    • dawirick says:

      Point of correct – We do not fall under the auspices of the NLRB. As public employees we must abide by the rules of the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB).

      As such the “last best offer” cannot be implemented until mediation and factfinding have been exhausted and a public hearing on the matter is held.

      • wRen Bradley says:

        You are absolutely correct. We are public sector workers and take pride in our work.

      • Benjamin Bilbro says:

        Thank you for the point of correct. To be more exact, we fall under the auspices of the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB or Board) which is a quasi-judicial administrative agency. It is charged with administering the seven collective bargaining statutes covering California public employees.

        SEIU Santa Clara Chapter falls under the fourth public sector labor relations act, MEYERS-MILIAS-BROWN ACT (MMBA), which covers any person employed by any public agency, including employees of cities, counties, charter counties, districts and other political subdivisions.

        Whether under the auspices of either PERB/MMBA or NLRB, the downfalls of working without a contract are the same. For my fellow members who are fortunate enough to read this string of posts, be forewarned.


  3. Rick says:

    Can we get details of what the County offers and what SEIU counteroffers on a regular basis? My stewards can’t even get me hard numbers-everything is rumor and speculation based on either second-hand discussions or conjecture based on media releases. We as members not only have a right, but a NEED to know *exactly* what is offered and counteroffered the moment these hit the table. We cannot be effective in the community gaining support if we’re in the dark-most people think we’re “holding out” for some sweet BART deal when I’m pretty sure (based on the aforementioned conjecture or rumor) that we’re barely asking to get *any* raise instead of yet another pay cut.

    Help us help ourselves. Get the details out to the membership. I’d like more specifics about my local and contract and less about electioneering in DC.

  4. Esther Zamora says:

    I still don’t see a direct answer regarding the continuation of our health benefits. Will our benefits be in effect during a strike??

  5. Muriel E Frederick says:

    I want to thank all of the negotiators, staff and members who stepped up and became CATS. Let’s do this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. nancym14 says:

    I as a county employee i am ok with paying part of my benefits. Unlike most county employees I dont feel entitled to the tax payers footing the bill for my pay and benefits. We are blessed to even have jobs with benefits and besides once Obama care comes into effect( and the union wont tell you this because they are his henchman) we all will be forced to go on the Ca. exchanges (called covered Ca.) where we will end up having to pay for all our benefits because health insurance rates will sky rocket in Ca. because of Obama care and the county wont pay our benefits anymore because they will be so high that they will naturally put us all on Obama care or government death care. If you dont believe google Jimmy Hoffa Jr. teamsters union president letter along with a bunch of other unions to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid letting them know how much Obama care is going to hurt working families. I guess these dumb union have finally realized it. Get educated all of you. You guys are a bunch of sheep. SEIU doesnt care about us they just want our union dues. They care more about their political agenda then they do about the members that pay their salaries…

  7. nancym14 says:

    I am an American and anyone that is a patriot does not like Socialism.Do you like socialism? I believe in the constitution and liberty not tyranny.

  8. KrisS12 says:

    don’t engage… it’s not worth it.

    • nancym14 says:

      I know Kristi who would want to engage in Constitutional vs Socialistic logic or common sense vs non common sense.

      • 1949deacon says:

        i like social security and i think single payer healthcare is the best,,food stamps are great, all forms of insurance are forms of socialism,,public schools are nice too,,medicare ,medicaid,,i can go on and on,,with this TYRANNY deacon1949

        • 1949deacon says:

          1. The Military/Defense – The United States military is the largest and most funded socialist program in the world. It operates thanks to our taxpayer dollars and protects the country as a whole. From the richest citizens to the homeless who sleep under the bridge. We are all protected by our military whether we pay taxes or not. This is complete socialism.
          2. Highways/Roads – Those roads and highways you drive on every single day are completely taxpayer funded. Your tax dollars are used to maintain, expand, and preserve our highways and roads for every one’s use. President Eisenhower was inspired by Germany’s autobahn and implemented the idea right here in America. That’s right, a republican president created our taxpayer funded, national highway system. This was a different time, before the republican party came down with a vicious case of rabies that never went away.
          3. Public Libraries – Yes. That place where you go to check out books from conservative authors telling you how horrible socialism is, is in fact socialism. Libraries are taxpayer funded. You pay a few bucks to get a library card and you can read books for free for the rest of your life.
          4. Police – Ever had a situation where you had to call the police? Then you have used a taxpayer funded socialist program. Anyone can call the police whether they pay taxes or not. They are there to protect and serve the community, not individuals. This is complete socialism on a state level, but still socialism all the same. Would you rather have to swipe your credit card before the police will help you?
          5. Fire Dept. – Hopefully you have never had a fire in your home. But if you have, you probably called your local taxpayer-funded fire department to put the fire out. Like police, this is state socialism. You tax dollars are used to rescue your entire community in case of a fire. It use to be set up where you would pay a fee every month to the fire dept. for their service. If you didn’t pay, they let your house burn down. Sadly, a man from Tennessee had this exact situation happen to him in 2011 because he didn’t pay his $75.00 fee. I guess that small town in Tennessee would rather let people’s houses burn down that resort to evil socialism. So don’t take for granted the fact that you have a 24/7 fire dept. to put out your burning home thanks to socialism.
          6. Postal Service – Like having mail delivered directly to your front door and paying next to nothing to send mail anywhere you want? Well it’s all made possible by socialism.

          • nancym14 says:

            Obviously you fit in well with the unions platform of living off of government. BTW the thing that is good in Government is the military because it works. The rest of dept. are useless. Social security is falling apart medi-care as well and our public schools are a joke….You poor misguided and uneducated person. I used to have a mush brain too until i got educated. Thank you Jesus for showing me the truth and leading me out of the liberal plantation. Amen

          • 1949deacon says:

            i geuss you have a problem with unions,,to bad for you,,but im glad to hear you got rid of your mush brain and now embrace jesus,,god of all gods,praise allah

          • 5050andrw says:

            Amen Nancy! You keep fighting the good fight from within.

          • nancym14 says:

            Thank you. I see you are a patriot unlike the socialist 1949deacon who wants all his freebies ie Obama phone etc. I have been fighting the good fight most of my life. Our country has NEVER been in such disarray as it is now. Fauxbama has mananged to destroy our economy, shred our constitution, destroy our health care system, play the race care…etc. Not to mention divide this country racially, which is unprecedented for a president! People in liberal looney Ca. regardless of the economic status are so uneducated. Most people here dont even research their candidates they just see a D after their name and vote. That is really ignorant.

          • 1949deacon says:

            you sound like rush oriley,

          • nancym14 says:

            Better to sound like Rush or Oreilley than to revere people like Fauxbama, Mussolini, Stalin or Karl Marx etc. If you even know the history behind these common criminals.

          • 1949deacon says:

            ya its always better to sound like rush and orielly in your world,,all i have to say to u is,,,,SEIU,SEIU,SEIU,SEIUSEIU,SEIU,SEIU,SEIUSEIU,SEIU,SEIU,SEIUSEIU,SEIU,SEIU,SEIU

          • nancym14 says:

            LOL….that would be the last chant from my mouth..You will learn…

          • 1949deacon says:

            ive already learned that you dont mind taking a paycheck,,FROM THE TAXPAYERS,,yet every chance you get, YOU call your fellow workers dummys and sheep,,you act like you know it all,,but your right there taking your paycheck,,if your so concerned you should ask the county if YOU could pay for all your benefits,,,oh but you already said you dont mind paying PART,,so you dont mind taking bennys the union got you,,you just like whining,,,,,SEIU,SEIU,SEIU,SEIU<,,you remind me of those silly people in those tea party videos

          • nancym14 says:

            Let me remind you that those that negotiate our raises etc are county workers not union employees. Who should get the credit the union or paid county workers? I did not say dummies I said uneducated which means that they do not do any research on what the truth is and just follow the typical union community organizers and their lies. Unlike you I work and earn my money. You will not get any sympathy from the tax payers,so you cant play that card. You are a good example of the type of county/government worker that the tax payers despise. You feel a sense of entitlement. You most likely just sit on the job and have the tax payers pay you for doing nearly nothing. I am a proud member of the Tea Party. Just like you are a proud member of the Socialist party.

  9. Anita Badger says:

    1. It is a little late to be telling us to save money, etc. Most of us have NO money TO save. 2. I hope we wait at least until Monday to strike as the pay period ends this Friday so we will have at least one paycheck to live on. 3. our contract, benefits included, continues until SEIU and the county make a new contract, at least that is my understanding.

    • wrenbradley says:


      We go back to the full master table this Friday. We will not strike without coming back to the members giving us final authorization because it is just that serious. Again, if you have specific questions, you can contact me directly as your chapter chair at

      In Solidarity, wRen

      • pilgrim says:

        Spot on my friend!

      • Anita Badger says:

        Thank you, wRen.

      • Robert L Heslop says:

        What was the offer that was rejected? It seems that there is very little communication from the union regarding what is happening. I have been trying for 7 years to get information from the union but they do not respond very well. I keep getting told that the information will be forthcoming, but it never comes. Everyone keeps telling me that the union is there for me and yet they never communicate. They also never come to discuss with us what we wanted from the contract.

  10. pilgrim says:

    The Board tells us how wonderful we are and then puts us down when we ask for their support for us trying to pay our bills and live a better life style and trying to buy a newer car instead of a 15 year old car!

  11. pilgrim says:

    Don’t cross the picket line amigos. The County is counting on you coming to work so their managers have it easy again!

  12. pilgrim says:

    “Stay thirsty my friends”!

  13. Anita Badger says:

    8/15/13 There is an article in today’s San Jose Mercury on our strike authorization. Although it doesn’t really detail much of anything beyond what we already know from here. I have also signed up for emails from SEIU and have yet to get any. What time is SEIU and the county’s “master table” meeting on Friday?

  14. Greg PJR says:

    I have been reading some of the comments on this wall and I wanted to share with people my issue with the current negotiations with the County.

    I have been with the County since 1998. I reached Step 5 in my classification a few years into my career. The last cost of living raise that I received from the county was many years ago and it amounted to less than 25 cents.

    In that time the price of everything has risen considerably. Including utilities and rent and what I pay to go see the doctor and purchase my prescriptions. Gas prices have gone up so much that it is difficult each pay period to make it to the next paycheck to fill up.

    Rent has also gone up. It has not gone down in all the time I have worked for this employer.

    I have crunched the numbers. I cannot afford the County subtracting anymore from my NET PAY.

    IF the County had been steadily giving its employees cost of living raises over the years then today I could afford less in my paycheck but they have not and I CANNOT. As a contract employee I should NOT have to work another job just to be able to pay untilities and get a haircut on a regular basis. But that is what it is coming down too.

    The County needs to step up to the plate and pay for the quality workers that they have and stop listening to a new wave of ‘entitlement’ whiners. An entitlement is NOT a handout. An entitlement is something that is OWED for a justfiable reason. A handout is a handout. I am entitled to SS when I retire because I have paid into it. I am entitled to healthcare insurance because I put my money into it. The county has only employed me part time so yes I do pay for my healthcare. It doesn’t come free with the job.

    So I am all for holding the employer to the same standards that it holds its employees. If the employer wants good work then the employer needs to pay for good work. Good work comes from an employee who is satisfied with the job and the treatment that he/she is receiving. A worker who is not overly tired because they have to work 80 hours a week to make ends meet.

  15. Irene says:

    I know the answers to a lot of these questions posted. How I know is by getting involved being informed. Since the negotiations started I been going to meeting and talking to people via email or phone. They are always willing to tell me what is happening with the negotiations. I see a lot of my co-workers being confused not having the right information saying well nobody told me blah blah blah. This is serious the county is treating its employees unfair. Nobody does nothing so nothing gets done. This time at least the Union is getting a lot of attention and support. I really hope the negotiators on both sides can come to an agreement that both parties can live with and there will not have to be a strike. Bottom line is this is a fight for what is right. I hope we all make the right choice if it does come down to a strike. Who side are you on?

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