Los Angeles County social workers, frustrated over pay and increasing caseloads, are planning to protest in front the County Board of Supervisors offices on October 1.
While The Chronicle was unable to reach the union organizing the walkout before publishing this story, sources in the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) were able to provide some details.
On Friday night, DCFS Director Philip Browning was still unsure about what kind of protest social workers would mount, but said that he had seen fliers calling for an “action day.”
“Our concern would be an impact on children and families,” Browning said. “We have a plan for managers to take responsibility,” if case carrying workers walk. “I hope that doesn’t occur.”
Randy Slavich, a 33-year-old caseworker in DCFS’ Pasadena office, said that the Services Employees International Union local 721 (SEIU) was organizing the walkout to protest Los Angeles County’s offer of a modest pay increase without additional medical contributions, which, he said, would cost workers as much as $100 a month in additional fees. But, Slavich, who said his caseload is at 43, would rather see more social workers hired than a pay-raise for himself.
The anxiety he feels about not being able to keep up with the pressure of his heavy caseload reached a high point earlier this month. “I had a panic attack and threw up,” he said. “When I told my supervisor, she said that sucks, but you are about to go up into the fifties.”
“You have an organization designed to meet psycho-social needs of children, but that treats its workers like robots,” Slavitch added.
Browning acknowledged the added pressures of increasing caseloads as allegations of child abuse have recently spiked, but pointed to DCFS’ remarkably low annual attrition rate of two percent.
“If people were so unhappy and so disappointed, people would be leaving by droves,” he said. “But the numbers aren’t bearing that out.”
Browning also pointed out that that the department recently hired 100 workers and will have another 150 working by January or February. “We hope this will provide some relief,” he said. “This is a tough job. I wouldn’t debate anyone and say this easy.”
For Slavitch that is not enough. “They hired 250 but we need 2,000,” he said.
Slavitch said that the union has said it will call a strike one week after October 1st if the workers’ demands are not met.
Daniel Heimpel is the founder of Fostering Media Connections and the publisher of The Chronicle of Social Change.