Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Superior Court Clerks Vote to Authorize Strike, Union Says
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The union representing Los Angeles Superior Court deputy clerks said late yesterday it has authorized a strike.
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 575 said in a press release that a vote taken over the course of three days last week “showed overwhelming member support for walking off the job if the Court remains entrenched in its positions and refuses to negotiate further.”
The union said that progress had been made, with the help of a state mediator, on all issues but two—vacation time and bonuses. But the court effectively cut off talks Sept. 8, the union said.
A court spokesperson said the court would not respond before today.
AFSCME spokesman Damian Tryon said in a statement:
“Vacations are increasingly difficult to come by. A handful of Clerks have no vacation approved this year at all. Many of our members are experiencing carpal tunnel and other long term injuries due to the increasing workload of unification and courtroom closures with no chances to rest. They physically cannot take anymore. They cannot be worked any harder. Refusing to negotiate on these issues is a slap in the face that we cannot accept.”
There are about 750 deputy clerks working in over 50 courthouses throughout Los Angeles County, the union said.
Union members conducted informational picketing at courthouses around the county in April after their contract expired.
The picketers wore yellow buttons with “1997”—the year of the last clerks’ strike—printed on them in large type.
Among the courthouses picketed were the downtown Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, the Metropolitan Court, and courthouses in Lancaster, Long Beach, Pomona, San Fernando, Torrance, and Van Nuys.
Carole Prescott, the president of Local 575, said the clerks' local has about 430 members and represents about 800 clerks, who work in courtrooms assisting judges and subordinate judicial officers.
Prescott told the MetNews in April that the vacation issue involves whether scheduling is done on a building-by-building basis or by “operational division,” Prescott said. The clerks want to retain the building-based method described in the most recent contract, but the court wants to change it, she said.
“That would just make a big mess and make it much more difficult to get vacation time,” Prescott asserted.
The expired contract called for a system of bonuses under which an annually increasing percentage of clerks would qualify, Prescott said. A committee was to formulate criteria for earning the bonuses, with half of the clerks qualifying during the contract's final year.
But the court 'never allowed' the percentage to climb to the maximum level, Prescott said. She explained that the bonus of 5.5 percent is earned for doing training and specialized extra work.
The union has asked that the bonuses be implemented this year at the 50 percent level under the new contract and that they climb to 70 percent next year, Prescott said.
Superior Court spokesperson Allan Parachini said at the time that the court was unwilling to increase the number of clerks qualifying for bonuses because it does not need a greater quantity of the additional services involved, Parachini asserted. As for the vacation issue, he said, the court is “only trying to essentially codify” an existing practice affecting several juvenile court facilities at which the services of clerks with specialized skills and experience are required.
“We have to be sure that vacation time is coordinated,” Parachini said.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company