FAIRFIELD — Dozens of unhappy court clerks and other Solano County court employees gathered for a noontime rally Wednesday within earshot of the nearly refurbished $26.9 million courthouse.
The court staff had their wages frozen since 2008 and the judges and court management recently ordered employees to take more unpaid furlough days in the upcoming months. Together with claims of increased workplace injuries and unpaid overtime, the issues have helped galvanize their union with their current labor contract set to expire at year’s end.
“The court is deeply disappointed that additional reductions are necessary,” said the court’s executive officer Brian K. Taylor in an email. “Over the past five years, we have seen a 22 percent reduction in staff, we have been required to limit operation hours of the clerk’s offices from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., we have been required to furlough employees for 12 days for two years. This year, in order to balance the budget, we are required to implement six furlough days, lay off two employees, eliminate two positions and close the civil and family law clerk’s offices in Vallejo.”
Some court clerks, asking not to be identified over concern of possible retaliation, question why cuts are not being made from other parts of the Solano court’s budget. They question why Taylor and his top four administrators still receive auto allowances totaling more than $32,000 and more than $10,000 to pay for their cellphones and discretionary business-related expenses.
One of the speakers at the rally on the courthouse steps was legal clerk John Gales.
“The court administration has all its budget charts and mathematical formulas to hide behind and make the cuts seem inevitable and beyond their control,” Gales said. “But the money is there to keep us all working and providing legal services to the public if that were the priority. It’s not a matter of arithmetic – it’s a matter of will.”
Gales, mindful that the judges and administrators are responding to Sacramento budget edicts, invited Gov. Jerry Brown to come see the long lines at the courthouse.
The nearly 220 court staff, represented by Service Employees International Union Local 1021, contend there is enough wiggle room in the Solano court’s budget to avoid the furloughs and provide residents with more than just minimum access to justice. They expect negotiations over their upcoming contract to get underway in September or October.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.