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California

Few heed call to join strike by L.A. County social workers

Strike
Brandie McMiller, an investigator with the Department of Children and Family Services, takes part in rally outside the county of Los Angeles building on Vermont Avenue in South L.A. on Dec. 5, 2013.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A strike by Los Angeles County children’s social workers was set to expand Monday to include employees in the Department of Public Social Services, but few of those workers heeded the call, according to a county spokesman.

The social workers' strike was launched Thursday by Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents about 55,000 county employees. SEIU’s members at the county have been working without a contract for two months.

While the union and county have reached a tentative agreement on raises and health benefits, social worker caseloads have remained a sticking point. SEIU wants the county to lower the maximum caseload in the social workers’ contract — now set at 31 — or to commit to hiring 35 more social workers a month for the next 17 months to bring caseloads down.

County officials have been unwilling to commit to a specific number of new hires in the contract.

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About two-thirds of the county’s social workers and supervising social workers did not report to work Thursday and Friday. On Monday, county spokesman David Sommers said about 1,200 were still off the job, slightly less than the previous week.

Only about 450 employees at the county Department of Public Social Services — roughly 4% of that department’s workforce — did not report to work Monday, he said.

The Department of Public Social Services administers cash and food assistance programs for low-income county residents, Medical and in-home services for the elderly and disabled.

Union members were planning protests at the field offices of the five county supervisors.

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Sommers said an independent mediator would be working to bring the union back to the table Monday.

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abby.sewell@latimes.com

Twitter: @sewella


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