Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction Against Sickout
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
A judge in Orange County yesterday issued a preliminary injunction barring continuation of the sickout by Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies, but a predicted intensification of the work action did not materialize.
Sheriff’s officials said there was no evidence of unusual sick calls by deputies yesterday, and a court spokesman said all court operations were normal. County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen warned county supervisors last week to expect ěthe most significant work action to dateî during the shortened workweek following the Columbus Day holiday Monday.
Orange Superior Court Judge John Watson, who had issued a temporary restraining order Oct. 1, yesterday granted the county’s request for a preliminary injunction containing essentially the same restrictions on union and deputy activity.
Watson said the law recognizes the difference between civilian employees and first-responders.
“Logic supports that the reason peace officers and firefighters are different [from other strikers] in that, in the Legislature’s judgment, striking is a risk to society that we cannot accept,” he said.
The preliminary injunction, which bars union leaders from orchestrating or encouraging sick-outs, will remain in effect until the underlying complaint in the case is resolved at trial, said Rick Brouwer, principal deputy county counsel.
“I sincerely hope we do not have to go all the way through this process,” Brouwer told reporters after the hearing.
Watson was assigned the case after all Los Angeles County judges disqualified themselves.
The order allows the sheriff to initiate contempt proceedings against deputies in violation. The department contemplates suspensions, however, because a contempt finding could result in jail time, Assistant County Counsel David B. Kelsey said.
Deputies have been working without a contact since January, and hundreds of them have called in sick in recent weeks, making it difficult to conduct court business, supervise jails and maintain street patrol strength.
The deputies’ union is asking for pay raises of 3 percent for each of the next three years — comparable to salary hikes in the latest Los Angeles Police Department contract — and deputies also want the county to offset rising health insurance costs.
Deputies’ wages have increased 19 percent through the last two three-year contracts.
“When we had it to give, we gave and we put real money in their pockets,” County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said. “But for us to enter into multiyear contracts which commit us to ongoing expenditures that we don’t know that we can sustain would be fiscally irresponsible....”
Deputies earn an average of $71,100 per year. According to a December 2002 officer pay survey, Los Angeles County ranked 12th in California, surpassed by Glendale, Anaheim, Orange, Los Angeles and Pomona, the Los Angeles Times reported. San Francisco topped the list at $79,212.
The deputies’ pay contract expired Jan. 31 and their fringe benefits contract expired Sept. 30. Leaders of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs have characterized negotiations as stalled.
ALADS has disclaimed any responsibility for organizing or coordinating the sickout, and have attributed the sick calls to employee frustration.
The impact of the sickout on the courts has been intermittent since it began in late September, reaching a high point on Sept. 30, when 224 courtroom deputies called in sick, and Oct. 1, when the number reached 320. About 920 deputies are assigned to the court services unit.
Five courthouses were unable to open on Oct. 1, and the opening of two others was delayed. The sickout has caused brief delays at various courthouses on several other days.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company