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Striking social workers rally for more colleagues

About 40 percent of Valencia office workers remain on strike Monday

Posted: December 9, 2013 2:18 p.m.
Updated: December 9, 2013 2:18 p.m.

Los Angeles County social workers rallied outside a county supervisor’s office in El Monte on Monday, demanding the county hire more workers for the Department of Children and Family Services to relieve caseloads and provide better care.

“This is not about money. It’s about child safety,” said Blanca Gomez, a social worker with the county department that oversees child welfare. “Kids are counting on us in a big way to do the right thing by them,” she said when reached by phone at the rally Monday.

On the issue of a pay raise, marathon bargaining sessions between the county and the Service Employees International Union have both sides agreeing on a 6 percent raise, the county covering most increasing health premiums and a $500 bonus in 2014.

But the union also wants the county to hire 35 more workers per month for 17 months. It also wants the pay raises to be retroactive to Sept. 30.

“We need more workers.” Gomez said. “Right now we have two or three times more children” per social worker than desired, she said.

Social workers called a three-day strike Thursday that spread to some other union workers in the county on Monday.

“We are supporting our social worker sisters and brothers who are on strike for child safety,” said Frank Pineda, a Department of Public Social Services supervisor. “We serve these same families and help get them back on their feet. This is our struggle, too.

“That’s why we’re out there on the picket lines — for child safety and family security.”

Between 25 and 30 social workers at the Valencia office of Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services didn’t show up for work Monday, said Paul Freeland, regional administrator for the office.

The number of local striking workers represents about 40 percent of the social workers employed at the Valencia office.

“We know the folks who are not here and we assume they may have joined the rally,” Freeland said Monday. “So far, we’ve been able to cover the workload.”

Last week’s walkout — the first county strike in more than a decade — was called Wednesday night by the Service Employees International Union Local 721. The union represents more than 55,000 county employees who have been working without a contract for more than two months.
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