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S.F. Superior Court Clerks Go on Strike for 2nd Time in 2 Years

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on October 14, 2014 12:42 PM

Don't expect to get anything done in any of San Francisco's superior courts today: All the clerks are on strike. The clerks, members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, voted last month to authorize the strike, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The strike was prompted by pay raises -- or, rather, the lack thereof. Clerks received a 3 percent pay raise last year, but that's it. The union claims that the court has "refused to bargain over mandatory issues [...] withheld information from the union [...] and threatened the jobs of union members at the table," according to SF Weekly.

A History of Budget Cuts

Funding for superior courts comes from the state, which for years has treated the court system as expendable when it comes to the state budget -- especially when times are tough. Over the last six years (in other words, since 2008, when the financial crisis began), the state court system's budget has been cut by about $1 billion.

Even though Gov. Jerry Brown planned to increase funding by $105 million earlier this year, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said the court system required $266 million just to "tread water."

Over the last several years, the budget cuts have led to court closures (remember state-mandated Furlough Fridays?) temporarily, and in some cases, permanently. The court closures and restricted hours have led to long wait times to file documents, even longer wait times for civil trials, and potential prejudice in criminal trials (the Los Angeles Times suggests that witnesses in gang trials may change their minds during the long wait time for criminal trials).

Strategic Decision

The strike was apparently strategically planned to occur after Monday's Columbus Day holiday, when courts would face a backlog of paperwork because of the loss of a business day. And this isn't the first time court clerks have gone on strike. In 2012, court clerks went in strike in protest of a 5 percent pay cut. Similarly, the SEIU criticized the courts for refusing to provide records showing the need for the pay cut. That strike lasted for just a day.

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