SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) --Hundreds of Santa Clara County court clerks are threatening to go on strike saying they need a better contract offer from the courts.
They say they've been overworked and underpaid.
The court clerks voted overwhelmingly to go on strike and as many know, clerks are essential to the day-to-day operations of the judicial system. So, if they do go on strike it will most likely shut down the courts.
The court clerks say it's been eight years since they have gotten a raise.
They said it's hard living on their wages in the most expensive area in the country. "Some of us live in shelters, some of us are couch surfing," Santa Clara County court clerk Shelly Carey said.
Carey has been a court clerk in Santa Clara County for at least 31 years.
Top salary for experienced workers like her is about $65,000 a year.
The courts are offering a net 4.5 percent raise for the first of a two-year contract and an immediate five percent increase for most of those who have at least six years experience.
The Union's Local president Ingrid Stewart said that's not enough. "What they're offering at this time does not meet the standards of what we would at least need to be able to survive and have a living wage," she said.
Santa Clara County's courts face a $5 million deficit this year.
This is on top of massive budget cuts in recent years in the state's judiciary branch.
It's resulted in reduced clerks hours, consolidation of services, longer lines and a backup of caseloads.
The clerks said they just can't keep up with all the work.
Court case responder Troy Rutt is involved in a family court case that keeps dragging on. "There's delays. It takes forever to get on the docket. It's a total nightmare," he said.
Lawyer Tadd Prizant sympathizes with the clerks. "Getting cases, they could be backlogged for up to two months, documents yeah," he said.
The clerks have already taken a strike vote.
"They would likely shut down all of the courts, including family law courts, criminal courts," attorney Johanna Kwasniewski said.
The spokesperson for the court responded to ABC7 News saying in part: "They value all of their employees, but they believe labor negotiations should be done at the table and not through the media."