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Clerk of Courts Members Rally Community to Save Services and Jobs

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By Mark McCullough Worth the Fight

MIAMI – Seventy AFSCME-represented employees at the Miami-Dade County Clerk of Courts received layoff notices before their workday was over recently. But the next week, those same employees learned that the layoffs had been cancelled.

Their jobs were saved and the services they provide were not cut – for now.

So what happened over that one week that resulted in $2 million in funding being found? AFSCME Local 199 happened. Local 199 members were successful despite a flawed funding formula at the state level that led to a budget shortfall and potential layoffs. 

“Our members and leaders sprang into action even before the layoff notices went out by reaching out to commissioners one on one, activating an aggressive media plan to alert the community to what was at stake and driving in calls and emails through social and digital outreach,” said Se'Adoreia “CeeCee” Brown, president of Local 199 and an AFSCME International vice president.

“Everyone was, of course, nervous once we heard that the front counter services were going to be cut,” said Jared Crawford, a courtroom clerk at the North Dade Justice Center. “But my union and my coworkers really shined … I never felt like I was alone. I knew that they were there with me every step of the way, supporting me and fighting with me. I have never been prouder to be an AFSCME member.”

He went on to say, “I encourage the individuals who are not a part of Local 199 to get involved and join our wonderful family.”

Local 199 members held a special meeting with Clerk of Court Harvey Ruvin in August to explore the options to prevent layoffs, met with county leaders and prepared to testify at a budget hearing to make the case for preserving the jobs. They were supported by elected officials, staff and citizens every step of the way.

Brown said Local 199 members worked hard to make elected officials and the public aware of the value they provide at the various courthouses.

They stressed that 600,000 residents applied for marriage licenses, looked up legal information, got court forms and made use of other front counter services last year in locations close to them. Members also underscored that they saved Miami-Dade residents thousands of trips downtown, helping them avoid parking and congestion issues. 

“It came down to making sure we applied enough pressure fast enough,” Brown said.  

The fight isn’t over. The newly-unearthed funding will be enough to avoid layoffs for six months. Local 199 members, along with the clerk of courts, the mayor, the Miami-Dade County Commission and the Florida Bar have until early next year to persuade the Florida Legislature to fix the funding formula and prevent layoffs in the future.