Sacramento court workers approve new contract, but say frustrations remain

Watch court workers strike at Sacramento county courthouse

Demanding fair wages, Sacramento Superior Court workers went on strike Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, halting work at court houses across the county.
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Demanding fair wages, Sacramento Superior Court workers went on strike Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, halting work at court houses across the county.

Sacramento Superior Court workers have a new contract to boost pay by as much as seven percent after six months of negotiations and a one-day walkout earlier this month that all but ground the county’s courthouses to a halt.

The three-year deal was approved by about 60 percent of workers after an all-day vote Friday, said John Bonilla of United Public Employees, or UPE, which represents the court’s office technical workers – court reporters, attendants and clerks.

But workers say they remain frustrated with court leaders over fewer employees, increased workloads and salaries they say do not keep pace with the cost of living. Court workers say feelings also remain raw after workers agreed to pay freezes during the recession.

“One of the biggest issues was working conditions – how they were treated. A lot of fences need to be mended to where they want to come to work again. There’s a lot of bad blood. They need to repair that,” Bonilla said.

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. Employees could get another 1 percent increase if compensation or discretionary funds are approved in the upcoming 2019-20 budget year and allocated to Sacramento County Superior Court.

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

Sacramento Superior Court officials had been largely quiet during the negotiation, which included a mediator, saying they value the work court employees do. Court officials say roughly 80 to 85 percent of the trial court’s budget is dedicated to workers’ salaries and benefits.

Court Executive Officer Lloyd Connelly said in a statement Wednesday that new labor pacts have been reached with the court’s three bargaining units – Teamsters and United Public Employees’ professional and office technical unions – thanking the unions for their “commitment and collaboration to reach a fair an equitable contracts.”

The contracts will be in effect until Sept. 30, 2021, Connelly said.

But Bonilla said working conditions at Sacramento County Superior Court factored into employees’ march to the polls.

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

“Hopefully, the committee can work on mending fences,” Bonilla said.