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Los Angeles County social workers go on strike

With contract negotiations deadlocked, thousands of Los Angeles County social workers went on strike Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.
December 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
With contract negotiations deadlocked, thousands of Los Angeles County social workers went on strike Thursday.

The walkout - the first county strike in more than a decade - was called Wednesday night by the Service Employees International Union Local 721. The union said as of Thursday, Los Angeles County's 4,000 social workers were on strike.

Some of those strikers say their caseloads are exploding. They are asking the county to add 35 new workers a month for the next year and a half.

"We want to be out there helping these kids and we don't have the resources and we don't have the tools to do it," said social worker David Green.

Workers say they are understaffed and have to deal with an average of 30 to 50 cases each.

"In order to be effective, a caseload should be between 14 and 15 per social worker, so obviously we are way over what we should be," said social worker Delmi Madrigal.

Candis Nelson, a supervisor, says social workers don't have enough time.

"There's no time for any crisis management, there's no time for any deep social work with your families, any quality time with your families," said Nelson.

The Department of Children and Family Services has been under fire after the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez of Palmdale this past May. Two DCFS social workers and two supervisors were fired in the investigation after the boy's death.

"We either take care of these children and mold them on the front end or we deal with them on the back end when all the bad things have happened," said Bob Schoonover with SEIU Local 721.

County Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka says the county is hiring more people.

"We have about 255 social workers in the queue. Over 100 are in training right now," said Fujioka.

But Fujioka says just having more workers isn't the answer. It's also about the way they work.

"I don't feel that merely hiring social workers will correct or address the problem and improve their efficiency," said Fujioka.

County officials say they are using administrators to fill in for striking workers, and for now, they are keeping all services operating. But they say they're still hoping for a quick solution.


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