Sonoma County says workers who strike may be punished

Sonoma County government administrators have told members of the county's largest labor union that they could be disciplined if they participate in a planned Feb. 28 strike and the walkout later is found to be unlawful by a state labor board.

Measures would start with docked pay and could include stiffer sanctions — from verbal warning to termination — for employees violating county conduct rules during the strike, officials said Monday in an interview.

The notice to employees, which came in a written memo last week, has drawn fire from union officials, who accused county leaders of trying to strong-arm employees into not participating in the strike. They say the planned walkout, to protest a number of recent unfair labor practice complaints they have filed against the county, is a legal right of their members.

"I think they're trying to intimidate people," said Lathe Gill, Santa Rosa-based area director for Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents about half of 3,500 county workers.

County officials, however, said they were simply seeking to respond to employees after administrators last month publicly questioned whether the strike was fueled more by differences at the bargaining table than labor practices.

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