Chants of “bring us back!” echoed through Fresno’s courthouse park on Friday, as dozens of workers from SEIU Local 521 continued their strike for a fourth day.
The union gathered for a news conference in front of the Fresno Courthouse carrying signs read “Don’t undervalue us.” Many had stickers covering their mouths that read “We won’t be silenced.” They were flanked by community members and political allies such as newly elected congressman TJ Cox and Fresno City Council members Miguel Arias, Nelson Esparza and Paul Caprioglio.
Preliminary negotiations with the union’s bargaining team began Friday morning, according to SEIU chapter president Denise Dedmon. But things are moving slowly. She said she hoped there could be an agreement before the weekend, then added that workers will continue striking until there was.
“At least we’re talking,” she said.
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That had not been the case until Friday.
It’s been a tough week for Dedmon and those standing on the line, knowing that the strike is having an affect on the community and slowing down work inside the courts.
“We are not happy that the community has to be standing in line and having their cases continued,” Dedmon said. “We want to do our jobs.”
While calls to the Fresno court were not immediately returned, Judge David Gottlieb said from the bench on Friday that eight courtrooms were open, but too few court reporters were available to staff them all. As a result, court business was moving slower than normal, as judges waited their turn for a court reporter. In some cases, this meant sending lawyers and cases to other courtrooms. According to courthouse sources, three court reporters were working as of Friday morning.
The strike is one of several happening across the state right now, said Dillon Savory, Executive Director of the Fresno-Madera-Tulare Kings Central Labor Council, which has been out lending “moral assistance” to the workers.
All that’s being asked for in Fresno is a fair contract, he said during the news conference. Union workers are asking for an increase in work hours, and pay increase and affordable health care.
“Let’s lock arms, sing songs and kick ass until they deliver that contract.”