LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — Thousands of children's social workers went on strike Thursday after contract talks with Los Angeles County officials broke down.
KNX 1070's Margaret Carrero reports about 4,000 members of the Service Employees International Union Local 721 were picketing at more than a dozen locations after the union announced the walkout Wednesday night.
Social Workers Go On Strike In Bid For More Hiring, Reduced Caseloads
Union employees have been working without a contract for more than two months.
Negotiations came to a halt this week when county Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) officials refused to consider workers' demand to reduce caseloads by hiring and training more social workers, according to union officials.
But social worker David Green told CBS2's Kara Finnstrom the county has so far failed to hire additional employees.
"This isn't simply a job where you hired and you go out to work, there's a 52-week training academy, there's an intense background check," Green said. "It takes time for these people to get on the job."
Lowell Goodman, spokesperson for Service Employees International Union Local 721, told CBS2 negotiators successfully reached settlements on 25 of 28 bargaining units, but talks reached a deadlock on Tuesday on the remaining issues.
The union had sued the county over the issue, alleging that a directive from an arbitrator to reduce the social worker-to-child ratios in one county child welfare office had been ignored.
Robert Becerril, who has worked for the Department of Children and Family Services for nine years, said ultimately it's families that are being shortchanged.
"Is that accurate service if I come to your home and I can only give you 15 minutes of my time to resolve your issues, or to help you understand what the services are meant?" Becerril said. "No, I'm in there 15 minutes and I'm done. That's a disservice."
There was no immediate response to requests for comment from DCFS officials.
Four DCFS employees were discharged earlier this year after a hearing in August in connection with the death of 9-year-old Palmdale boy Gabriel Fernandez.
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