For the first time in 40 years, Santa Clara County workers go on strike

After going several months without a contract, a group of Santa Clara County workers went on strike today.

They are members of SEIU and include those who maintain county roads, provide mental health services and provide support to children and families.

They're hitting the picket line for the first time in 40 years.

Today they set up in front places like the Family Resource Center, the facilities and fleets department, and the Public Defenders office. The workers say this strike is about unfair labor practices, including the reorganization of some departments and the moving of others.

Valerie Pickering, a social work supervisor says, "The working conditions have deteriorated exponentially." She adds, "It's about the workload, the vacancies, the inability to retain staff."

But Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith believes the strike is about money and that the union wants double what the county has offered.

The package on the table right now had included 3% raises for 5 years and totaled about $625 million.

Smith says "they will have a decision to make about whether they want to return to the bargaining table, come up with a contract or whether they want to continue to believe there is a billion dollars hiding in my pockets someplace and therefore stay on strike and not have a contract."

So far, clients we spoke with say they haven't felt a disruption in services.

Smith says they're prepared to use managers to keep the doors open. "We can maintain county services as long as we need to," said Smith.

But union members say they're prepared to strike as long as they need to, and that for them this is an issue of dignity, respect, and doing what's right for the community in the long run.

Rebecca Perez-Ochoa, a social services analyst, said "there's no way people who put themselves out there every day for family and children are going to come out here and lose a day of pay for something that ain't true. Because all we deal with is fact, our jobs are based on fact. So the fact is we on strike people."