Worker’s Rights: Superior Court workers report serious erosion in public access to legal system
By Bonnie Petty
Sonoma County Gazette, February 1, 2017
Let’s say you have been involved in a court case that has finally come before the Sonoma County Superior Court. But 30 minutes past the time court was to begin, the entire courtroom is still waiting (your attorney’s fees are multiplying) because the court reporter is still in another courtroom. When that trial is over, she will have to pack up her gear and race to your courtroom and set up her gear again.
“Oftentimes I am scheduled in multiple courtrooms in a day and packing up my gear and driving over to another courthouse is considered my break,” says Court Reporter Becki Peterson.
It was only one example of the serious deterioration in working conditions and the subsequent erosion of public access to the legal system at the Sonoma County Superior Court, as related by the workers themselves. On Saturday, January 14th, the North Bay Workers’ Rights Board convened a hearing on the working conditions of those court workers, which they requested as a result of the administrators’ failure to respond to their multiple requests for redress.
The Worth of Work
By Judith Wilson
North Bay Biz, October 2016
A bright red and white poster at the entrance to Target in Novato reads Help Wanted. Similar signs are popping up in others areas of the North Bay, often staying there for weeks at a time, suggesting that workers at the bottom of the pay scale are reluctant to apply for jobs in areas where they can’t afford to live. It’s one of the problems that results when a living wage—the amount workers have to earn to pay for necessities like housing and food—exceeds the amount they actually earn by a wide margin. The disparity is something the state of California hopes to remedy with a series of increases in the minimum wage. It seems like a simple solution at first glance, but in reality it’s complex, with issues that make the outcome far from a sure thing.
Why $15 Now in California
by Martin J. Bennett
Sonoma Gazette, July 2016
Governor Jerry Brown recently signed legislation to boost the California minimum wage from $10/hr. to $15/hr.—a 50 percent increase, which will affect more than one-third of the workforce, making the state’s minimum the highest in the nation. This minimum wage hike will be phased in over six years, then automatically adjusted annually to offset rising costs of living.
Immediately after California, New York adopted a $15/hr. minimum followed by the District of Columbia. Legislatures in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are now considering $15/hr. minimum wage measures.
However, a political puzzle needs examination. Last year the Governor and the legislature’s Democratic leadership opposed a $13/hr. minimum wage bill (phased in by 2017) introduced by State Senator Mark Leno.
Why a $15 minimum wage a year later? To answer that question we must analyze the grassroots movement for economic justice that began in the mid-1990s and has now ‘scaled up,’ forcing the Governor and legislature to act.