Union representing L.A. County social workers approves new contract

After months of contentious negotiations that culminated in a six-day strike by county social workers in December, county employees represented by Service Employees International Union Local 721 voted to approve a new labor agreement.

The union’s members have been voting on the proposed deal over the last three weeks, and the polling ended Wednesday. The union represents about 55,000 county workers, including nurses, social workers and public works employees. According to the union, 95% of those who voted were in favor of the agreement.

The deal includes a 6% raise over the next three years, an additional $200,000 to be contributed by the county to a rideshare subsidy program, and an agreement by the county to hire 450 more social workers by October.

Social worker caseloads were a major sticking point in negotiations, as was the timing of the raise. SEIU wanted the raise to be retroactive to October, when the previous labor agreement expired, but county officials said that would be unfair to other labor organizations that negotiated their contracts sooner.

The deal approved by SEIU’s members would make the raise retroactive to Dec. 13, when the county and union first struck a tentative deal, and would give each worker $500 in bonus pay in the next year.

The raises will be the first that most county employees have received since the recession.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors must approve the contracts as well, likely by the end of the month, SEIU spokesman Ian Thompson said. 

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abby.sewell@latimes.com

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