Superior Court Chapters Reach Agreement on New Contract After Ten Months of Bargaining

We are pleased to announce that both bargaining units at the San Francisco Superior Court completed bargaining and ratified new contracts. This has been a long, difficult process; both units have been bargaining since May 2011. Last year, the State passed a budget with $350 million in cuts to the judicial branch. In response, the Court suspended negotiations and announced it would layoff 200 employees and close 25 courtrooms. Last Fall, the Court was granted an emergency loan and reduced the number of layoffs to 70. Unfortunately, the majority of employees laid off were from Local 21 units. The Union spent months bargaining over the impact of layoffs, and were forced to file two charges with the Public Employees Relation Board for the Court’s failure to meet and confer, and attempts to bypass the Union and direct deal with employees. By October, the Court Reporters lost almost half of their unit and the Professionals 20%, including bargaining team members.

Although both units suffered severe layoffs, the Court maintained its position in demanding significant concessions, including a 7.5% permanent wage reduction, and cuts to severance, employer contribution to healthcare, and the elimination of almost all economic benefits in the MOU’s. We finally reached a deal at both tables that our members feel good about. The major concessions were the same for all bargaining units  -- a 5% wage reduction and a decrease in healthcare for individuals on the holdover list from 5 to 3 years. We also included trigger language that allows the reduction to fluctuate depending on budget allocations, with 5% being the highest reduction possible. There was increasing pressure to settle based on the employers’ deadline to submit its healthcare contribution to the Health Services System, and our insistence on the employer’s contribution increasing throughout the duration of the contract, which the employer agreed to increase by 9% annually. Both units also received additional floating holidays and significant non-economic benefits.

Unlike the Court Professionals unit, the Court Reporters had significant changes to their MOU in this round of bargaining. Although some of these changes will take getting used to, the majority benefit our members. Vacation and sick leave were use or lose, which changed to an accrual system. The rate of accrual is the same as CCSF’s, however the Court provided members with additional days to ease the transition. Court reporters have the potential to start with a bank of 50 sick days and 41 vacation days. In addition, we were able to get additional benefits including wellness, catastrophic leave, and the ability to transfer sick leave to vacation annually.

Both units fought hard to keep the benefits that were important to them and gain new ones. Wage concessions are difficult but the court unions worked together to come up with a method that would ensure that if the employer got more money during the contract term, members would too. It was this type of creativity and cooperation that allowed us to bargain what we did in these economic times.