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Sacramento court workers voting on new labor pact

Brooke Ryan, Sacramento Superior court employee and union representative, greets a court worker who casts her ballot during a vote on a new labor contract at Sacramento County Courthouse, Friday, Dec. 21.
Brooke Ryan, Sacramento Superior court employee and union representative, greets a court worker who casts her ballot during a vote on a new labor contract at Sacramento County Courthouse, Friday, Dec. 21. The Bee

Sacramento Superior Court workers are voted Friday on a new three-year contract.

Polls opened 9 a.m. at courthouses across the county, days after union representatives and courts management came together on a mediated tentative agreement that would raise salaries by 7 percent over the life of the pact.

The vote, given the green light by employees Thursday night, could end six months of at-times tense negotiation between the Superior Court and its office technical workers, the court reporters, attendants and clerks who make up much of the court’s workforce.

Polls close 3 p.m. Union officials said they expected a final count Friday evening, but details results were not immediately available.

“It’s very important,” said 18-year courthouse veteran Nancy Wallace, after dropping off her ballot at the sixth-floor courtroom turned polling place inside downtown Sacramento’s Gordon Schaber Courthouse. “This (contract) is what governs how we are treated. You’ve got to know the contract to understand it.”

Under the terms of the deal, office technical workers will receive a 3 percent salary increase once the contract is ratified, followed by 2 percent increases in October 2019 and again in October 2020. Another 1 percent increase could be in the offing if compensation or discretionary funds are approved in the upcoming 2019-20 budget year and allocated to Sacramento Superior Court.

Longevity pay, a joint committee of labor and management, retiree benefits and options for retirees to participate in court health plans were among other proposals tentatively agreed to before today’s vote.

Sacramento Superior Court officials, largely quiet, have called their offer fair while cautioning that the court remain financially prudent. Court officials say roughly 80 to 85 percent of the trial court’s budget is dedicated to workers’ salaries and benefits.

Getting to a vote wasn’t easy. A mediator was brought in to help broker the agreement employees voted on. Last week, workers all but shut down the county’s courthouses in a one-day walkout, frustrated over increased workloads, fewer employees and salaries they say do not keep pace with the cost of living.

“We’re here to prove our worth. ... We’re here to will them back to the table to get a contract for our folks,” John Bonilla, a representative of United Public Employees, the union representing the court workers, said at the beginning of the Dec. 11 strike.

Friday, Bonilla watched as workers decided their future at the ballot box.

“It’s an important vote to move forward,” Bonilla said.

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