Santa Clara County workers' strike intensifies on Day 3; county files grievance

Some 12,000 Santa Clara County workers remain off the job as a work impasse with the county entered its third consecutive day on Friday. 

The County filed an unfair practice grievance against the union and is charging that the strike is unlawful. They also said SEIU Local 521 failed to provide "adequate notice" to the county of its intentions before initiating a strike.

SEIU Local 521 responded that the county's charge has no merit. 

"The fact that they would file a baseless charge against their own employees is another indication of their inability to deal with their employees' legal strike action against the county's unfair labor practices," said union member Chris Libera in their official response. 

The California Public Employment Relations Board will hear the complaint.

Santa Clara County Valley Health Center in Gilroy is a clinic caught in the middle.

Its SEIU Local 521 staffers are picketing outside, which is disrupting service inside.

"When I see someone we personally know, we're doing our best to reassure them, services are shut down. But if they need help we're here to help them," said Petra Green, a picketer who works as a health service representative.

Strikers are also demonstrating outside the East Valley Clinic in San Jose. A total of 150 workers at both sites are off their jobs, which forces some patients to go elsewhere, or come back another day.

"I come here because it's closer and they have real good doctors here. I hope they don't close," said one woman who arrived at the Gilroy clinic via taxicab.

The county said patients in the women, infants and children programs are also affected. 

Wednesday, some of the 12,000 SEIU 521 members stopped working and started picketing after ongoing labor talks reached an impasse. Members' benefits, pay, and staffing levels are stumbling blocks to a resolution.

"What we want is actually to be able to contract more people to serve the county better. To serve the people better. And it's not happening. They don't want to contract more people," said Angelina Davia, a public health nutritional who was walking the picket line Friday afternoon.

Thursday, county executive, Doctor Jeff Smith, pointed to pay as one of the major issues behind closed doors. He said the county offers a 3% raise each of the next five years, equaling $625 million. Smith said Thursday that the union seeks raises two-to-three times that amount.

"They've painted themselves into a corner. And no matter how long a strike lasts, it doesn't increase the amount of money the taxpayers pay the county," he said.

Smith said the county is prepared for this strike to last weeks, adding SEIU is now refusing to negotiate. Union representatives said they'll continue their rolling strikes, shutting down different county sites each day, until there's a settlement.

Bay City News reporter Kyle Martin contributed to this report.