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Sickout shuts down 2 DMV offices

Times Staff Writer

A sickout staged Friday by disgruntled Department of Motor Vehicles workers has shut down at least two offices in Los Angeles County and prompted the department to warn customers of delays at many others.

The informal protest is the latest effort by state workers to call attention to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cutbacks in wages and hours as the state continues to operate without a budget.

DMV officials closed offices Friday morning in Hawthorne and Bellflower because of staff shortages, and delays of up to two hours were reported at the Inglewood DMV, said Mike Marando, a DMV spokesman in Sacramento.

“We’re working though these issues,” DMV Director George Valverde said. “We would hope that the public will have some patience with us.”

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On the department’s website, officials announced in red letters: “Due to public safety concerns, the Hawthorne Office is currently closed.”

In addition, the site warned: “Service levels in many of the Southern California offices are currently impacted due to reduced staffing” and noted that DMV offices would not be open today.

Valverde said more than 200 DMV employees in the Los Angeles area called in sick Friday. He urged the public to use the DMV website to renew licenses, register vehicles and obtain other services.

“We rely on our workers to show up to work, and that certainly has impacted our wait times,” Valverde said.

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The total number of offices affected by staffing shortages Friday was unclear. Marando said fewer than 10 of the state’s 169 DMV field offices were affected, all in the Los Angeles area. In order to keep short-staffed offices open, managers transferred 100 employees from other locations, Valverde said.

“When we see a staff shortage in one or more offices, we work immediately to rectify that,” Marando said.

Jim Zamora, a spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 1000, which represents the DMV workers, said at least 10 offices were affected. He said that union leaders “did not coordinate, organize or sanction” the protest but that they sympathized with DMV workers who have faced cutbacks as the governor wrestles with state legislators over the budget.

“Our DMV workers are incredibly demoralized and upset right now,” Zamora said.

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Some DMV workers reached at home by phone said they had heard that absences caused delays at a dozen or more offices, including those in Bellflower, Compton, Hawthorne, Montebello, Rancho Cucamonga, West Covina, Whittier, Bell Gardens and the downtown Los Angeles office on Hope Street. The workers asked not to be named out of concern for their jobs.

Ted Burnett, SEIU’s statewide DMV representative, said he also heard of several offices in Orange County, including locations in Costa Mesa and Irvine, as well as at least one in Riverside County, where higher than usual numbers of employees called in sick.

Union leaders have called for a protest this morning against the DMV’s elimination of Saturday hours and the layoffs of about 1,000 employees.

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molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Alana Semuels contributed to this report.


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