FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 25, 2015
Contact: Khanh Weinberg (408) 678-3364
Santa Clara County workers set date to strike: June 30
Unfair labor practices by employer, economic inequality, public safety, labor shortage put #sccountyincrisis
San Jose, Calif. – Members of Santa Clara County’s largest union workforce have overwhelmingly voted to go on an unfair practice strike on June 30. Service Employees International Union Local 521 members and community leaders addressed the reasons for the strike at a press conference today held at county headquarters. Workers voted to hold an “open-ended” strike with no end date.
Local 521, with 9,000 members, has charged the county with unfair practices such as retaliation against active union members who have led concerted efforts to call attention to crises in the county.
“After years of recessionary cuts, Santa Clara County has fallen severely behind in key measurements of public health and safety,” said Luisa Blue, the top elected officer of the union. “But instead of working with its front-line employees to end the crises of homelessness and a looming labor shortage, county management has chosen to intimidate workers and interfere in union business. We don’t want to strike, but the county left workers no other choice.”
The union represents workers from an array of county departments including 9-1-1 County Communications (dispatchers), the Health and Hospital System (public health nurses, x-ray technicians, etc.) and Social Services (child welfare workers, eligibility workers, etc.).
SEIU 521 has filed four Unfair Practice Charges (UPC) with the Public Employment Relations Board against the county for choosing to interfere in union business; unilaterally eliminate alternate work hours as a form of retaliation; single out SEIU leaders with unfavorable reports; and unilaterally change sick leave policies to scare workers out of striking.
Expressing solidarity with the county workers, either in person or in statements of support were: Sandy Perry, Outreach Minister with Community Homeless Alliance Ministry; Prof. Ruth Silver-Taube, founder of Bay Area Equal Pay Collaborative; Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA.
Said Perry, of the Homeless Alliance: “Homelessness is a major issue that must be solved. The county recognizes this. But to solve it, we must support our public workers who are at the front lines serving the homeless in Santa Clara County each day by providing medical and behavioral health care and access to social services.”
The county and union have been in negotiations; the current contract expired June 21 and was extended for two days. SEIU members have been holding many public actions to highlight the multiple crises facing Santa Clara County, but the county is not taking adequate steps to meet the challenges.
- 9-1-1 Dispatchers Shortage: Effective May 2015, county implemented mandatory overtime policy to address shortage in dispatchers.
- Public Health Nurse Shortage: Santa Clara County’s PHN-to-resident ratio is among the lowest in the Bay Area.
- Social Services Shortage: According to 2015 quarterly progress report, county’s “recruitment, retention and stability of its social work staff … results in … instability for the children and families in the child welfare system.”
- A looming labor shortage: 2,000 workers will reach retirement age in 5 years.
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The Service Employees International Union is an organization of 2.1 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide. SEIU is dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society. For more information, visit www.seiu521.org