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With Employees on Strike, Courts Open But not at Full Strength



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Fresno Superior Court still operated Tuesday (Jan. 15), but it was anything but normal.
Outside, a constant drizzle did not deter hundreds of striking court workers — judicial assistants, clerks, and court reporters.

Photo of GV Wire's David Taub
Politics 101
David Taub
“Rain or shine, we stay on the line,” was one of the many mantras SEIU 521 members chanted.

Inside the Courts

Inside, many courtrooms were closed — cases consolidated to just a few judges for the day.
At the criminal courthouse, only two of the 28 courtrooms were in use during the 11 a.m. hour, both on the seventh floor.
Things were packed in the rooms of Judge Gary Hoff and Jon Conklin. Some bailiffs told GV Wire that instead of hearing five cases at a time, they stuffed 15 prisoners in the room.
Just a few blocks away at civil court, the shortage of workers led to many closed courtrooms. Things were operating as normal when business did take place.
The line was long at the family clerk’s office, where only a few windows were open. That is not necessarily uncommon. Over at the civil clerk’s office, nearly every window was open and no one was in line.
Judge David Kalemkarian heard a paternity law case in Dept. 203. On the floor above, newly minted arbiter Judge Heather Jones was waiting on an interpreter.
Next door, her husband, Samuel Dalesandro, was between cases. He deferred any questions about how court was going to a court spokesperson.
But, the court administration was shy. It did not respond to GV Wire’s request for comment.
That wasn’t a problem with the strikers outside. The energy level remained high, from 7:30 a.m., until they took a Me-n-Ed’s pizza break for lunch.
Then, the purple-clad group resumed, marching around the criminal courthouse as if it was the Walls of Jericho. Instead of a trumpet, they had their chants.

All About Healthcare

“What’s unfair is that (the court’s offer) is not making every employee whole. If we take what the court offers, we have about 60 employees that will make in their paycheck less than what they are making now. To us, that is not fair.”Union president Denise Dedmon
Of course, the strike is about money. The employees want more. Who ever says they are overpaid?
The union says the court is guilty of unfair labor practices. Court management says the union is spreading misinformation about labor negotiations.
But, it’s really about health benefits costs.
SEIU 521 president Denise Dedmon says that even with a 3% raise, it doesn’t matter if that’s eroded by paying more in health costs.
“What’s unfair is that (the court’s offer) is not making every employee whole. If we take what the court offers, we have about 60 employees that will make in their paycheck less than what they are making now. To us, that is not fair,” Dedmon said.
Dedmon says they would accept the 3% as long as healthcare increases are included too.
Picketers told GV Wire say they are in for the long haul.

Park Priorities

Fresno has $1 million to spend on parks, and the council will hear a priority list at its meeting Thursday (Jan. 17).
The money was set aside from the budget for one-time improvements. However, this barely qualifies as a drop in the bucket. Last year’s parks master plan identified $112 million in improvements.
The largest expenditure, proposed by the parks department, is soccer field lighting at Al Radka Park for $300,000.
The requests, covering six parks:

Park (district #) Item Cost
Al Radka (5) Soccer field lighting $300,000
Cary (4) Irrigation replacement
Athletic field lighting
Einstein (7) Security lighting $25,000
Granny’s (7) Security lighting $75,000
Marry Ella Brown (3) BMX track $50,000
Pilibos (5) Irrigation upgrade
Tot lot replacement

Farmer in Charge

Patrick Farmer

Acting Fresno Police Chief Patrick Farmer is the man in charge while Chief Jerry Dyer recovers from back surgery.
Dyer underwent the surgery in late December. Many around City Hall and at police headquarters expect Dyer to be back next month.

Raise for Serpa

Luke Serpa

The Clovis City Council feels city manager Luke Serpa is doing a good job. So much so, that the board voted 5-0 Monday (Jan. 14) to give him a 5% raise.
Serpa has been on the job since July 2017. With the council vote, his pay increased $10,320 annually, backdated to Jan. 1. He now earns $216,636. By comparison, Fresno city manager Wilma Quan-Schecter earns $236,250.

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email