Union representing Santa Clara County workers vote to strike

SANTA CLARA COUNTY (BCN) — Santa Clara County workers represented by Service Employees International Union Local 521 announced Thursday morning they have voted to go on strike next week.

The union, which represents 9,000 members employed by the county, held a news conference at 10 a.m. to make the announcement.

The strike, which will begin Tuesday, is a result of what SEIU Local 521 members said are a list of grievances that include unfair labor practices, economic inequality, public safety and a labor shortage, according to union officials.

According to union officials, they want the county to address a 35 percent staff shortage within the 911 Communications Department, as well as a looming labor shortage where about 2,000 workers will reach retirement age in five years.

Santa Clara County workers represented by the union said they have been holding many public actions to highlight the multiple crises facing the county, but the county’s management has not taken adequate steps to meet the
challenges.

Union officials allege that county management has chosen not to work with its workers to implement proposals that put the community first, but instead has chosen to interfere in union business. County management has eliminated alternative work hours as a form of retaliation, singled out SEIU leaders with unfavorable reports and has changed sick leave policies to scare workers out of striking, according to union officials.

SEIU 521 has filed four unfair practice charges with the state Public Employment Relations Board, union officials said.

Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith said Thursday morning that the county is “meeting on a regular basis to try to resolve the remaining issues at the table.”

Smith said the unresolved issues were “difficult” but declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing negotiations.

“We certainly hope, and I think probably will, resolve those issues before a strike,” he said.\

However, if no agreement is reached, Smith said the county is prepared to go to court to obtain an injunction to protect essential services such as 911 dispatch, hospitals and jails.

SEIU Local 521 represents workers from many county departments, including 911 dispatchers, public health nurses and social services workers, according to the union.

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