Court workers’ union signals move toward mediation to settle contract

A union representing nearly 400 Santa Clara County Superior Court workers on strike for a sixth day today calling for a pay raise is willing to enter negotiations with the court.

The Santa Clara County Superior Court Professional Employees Association reached out to the court on Tuesday and indicated it is willing to negotiate through a mediator, but is continuing to strike for a “fair and just contract,” union president Ingrid Stewart said.

The court is open to looking at the union’s request for a raise in the second year of its two-year contract, Stewart said.

“We are pleased SCPEA has agreed to mediation as we first suggested on July 25th. The Court remains hopeful that a mutually agreed upon resolution can be achieved,” court officials said in a statement today.

In June, the court gave the union its “last, best and final” offer that gave workers a 4.5 percent net increase but no raise in the second year.

The union’s members have gone without a pay increase for eight years and were uncertain of when they’d receive another raise if they moved forward with the court’s proposal, according to Stewart.

The members have struggled to make ends meet, some working second jobs and making 200-mile round trips for their shifts, Stewart said.

“We need a second year cost-of-living raise to keep up with the pace of the economy here in this valley,” she said.

The union is looking for a mediator to begin negotiations by the end of the week, but won’t return to work until an agreement is reached, Stewart said.

“In order to keep the pressure on the court, we need to stay out,” she said.

Meanwhile, the court has continued to operations its 11 facilities throughout the county on a limited basis.

The reduced workforce has made a “huge impact” to the courts, Stewart said.

Some defendants sentenced in criminal cases were ordered to return to court, but a date wasn’t written down on their minute orders, Stewart said.

“Mistakes are intermittently being made but we’re correcting them,” court spokesman Joe Macaluso said.

“Mistakes get made everyday whether we have staff here or not,” Macaluso said.

Around 300 union members have assembled outside the Hall of Justice off of West Hedding Street in San Jose since Aug. 3. Some members with previously scheduled vacations haven’t shown up to work or the picket line, according to Stewart.

On Friday, they took their strike less than 2 miles away downtown to the new Family Justice Center Courthouse scheduled to open next week.

This morning, union members walked a picket line and shouted phrases such as “Judges support us, bring us back to work!” as passing cars honked in support.

They have also carried large signs, some of which said, “Overworked and Underpaid,” and “Settlement Equals Satisfaction!” Some criminal courtrooms are moving forward with jury selection and anyone with a summons should continue checking whether they need to report.

Anyone with a scheduled hearing should also continue to go to court and will be given another date if their matter can’t be heard.

The Civil Clerk’s Office is scheduled to close at noon at the Downtown and Family courthouses in downtown San Jose.

The Clerk’s Office is closed at courthouses in Sunnyvale, Morgan Hill, Palo Alto and Santa Clara in addition to the Hall of Justice, Terraine and Juvenile Justice facilities in San Jose.

The union has started a GoFundMe page to raise money while out on strike that had raised $34,451 of its $40,000 goal as of this morning. The fund can be found online at https://www.gofundme.com/259356rs.