The San Joaquin County workers union began their strike with a press conference and rally at the County Administration at noon Tuesday, July 5.
Instead of reporting to work Tuesday morning, nearly 4,400 San Joaquin county workers — represented by SEIU 1021 — grabbed picket signs and shut down all county operations. They walked out on behalf of an Unfair Labor Practice strike, a method of protest that California labor law grants employees whose employer has violated the rules of collective bargaining. Specifically in this case, the county has not bargained in good faith, by refusing to meet with the union's bargaining team, refusing to make proposals, refusing to provide the information the union is legally entitled to so it can bargain, delaying the bargaining process, discriminating against union members and punishing workers for legal union activity.
Before the union contract expired on Thursday, June 30, the county stubbornly refused the union's requests to meet more often to better reach a new agreement. As a result, the parties met only 18 times since bargaining began more than four months ago. The county also refused to engage in any dialogue at the bargaining table regarding the union's priorities. On June 30, the county's negotiators told the union that they did not have authority to continue negotiations and that the county administrators and supervisors, who have authority, were now on vacation. Not until the day the contract expired did the county even offer the same wage proposal it agreed to with its other unions, a level of pay not adequate for the lowest paid workers in the county.
"The county has shown not only its typical disrespect for its employees – our members – but contempt for its residents and for the law," Marcus Williams, president of the SEIU 1021 San Joaquin County Chapter, said.
One of the union's chief concerns is the more than 800 positions the county has budgeted for, but not filled. Every department is short-staffed, leading to stress and safety concerns for the workers and their clients. The safety alarms are loudest at San Joaquin General Hospital (which is the only County operation not on strike today). These are 800 service-providing positions, something the taxpayers are already funding, yet not receiving, and 800 jobs this community needs that are being left unfulfilled.
"Our people are fed up," Williams said. "They're standing up and walking out."