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County Courts Back on Track After Judge Ends Deputies' Sickout

October 03, 2003|Jean Guccione | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles County courts opened without interruption Thursday, a day after a judge ordered hundreds of sheriff's deputies to end a sickout.

Orange County Superior Court Judge John A. Watson issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday against the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, its officers and 6,200 members, after finding that they had engaged in an "unlawful strike activity ... against essential public services."

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had asked the court to stop the job action, saying the tactic threatened public safety. Union officials said they had not organized or orchestrated two weeks of wildcat walkouts that closed five courthouses Wednesday and caused delays in court operations countywide. They attributed the sickout to growing frustration among rank-and-file deputies over stalled labor negotiations.

Watson found that work slowdowns by deputies who staff county jails and are responsible for transporting inmates to court negatively affect a critical public safety function, and are therefore outlawed.

Watson ruled that county lawyers had not proved that union officials had done anything wrong but added that substantial evidence showed that the union had taken a leadership role on labor issues.

A hearing on a preliminary injunction is set for Oct. 14.

The courts were targeted for disruption although they were not a party to the labor dispute. Deputies are negotiating new contracts with the county.

The union is seeking an overall 6% annual pay increase, according to a proposal detailed on its Web site. Deputies make $62,000 to $70,000 annually. But county officials say they have no money to give any pay raises.

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