Social services workers join day five of Santa Clara County strike

SAN JOSE — Hundreds of social workers and employees of Santa Clara County’s Social Services Agency joined day five of a rolling strike, which has impacted public health services, county parks, road maintenance, 911 dispatchers and other departments over the past week.

Workers with Service Employees International Union Local 521, which represents 12,000 county employees, began a rolling strike last Wednesday, which has hit different departments and services each day of the strike. Hundreds of employees picketed at the Social Services Agency campus on Senter Road on Monday and at six other locations.

The union estimated 1,000 employees participated in the strike, while the county estimated that, as of noon, 250 to 350 individuals were picketing across various locations.

Griselda Galindo, an eligibility worker at the Senter Road campus, said more than 500 people in her office participated in the strike, including employees who handle applications for benefits, social workers, and employment counselors.

“Today we are not approving new cases for Medi-Cal, cash aid, CalFresh, general services, in-home supportive services,” said Galindo, naming services that have been impacted by the strike. “Our campus is shut down. The offices are open, and there are essential workers that are there to help clients, but the wait times are very long and services are very limited.”

According to the county’s strike update webpage, the offices of Continuing Benefit Services, CalWORKs Employment Services, and Training Center at Senter Road were all closed Monday. Although offices for the Department of Employment and Benefit Services remain open, people may experience long wait times, and the county urged clients to come back another day or seek services online.

SEIU called the strike over an unfair labor practice complaint filed with the state over issues within the Department of Family and Children’s Services, including the relocation of a Family Resource Center in east San Jose to the downtown and staffing changes within the department. Striking employees have also cited vacancies in various departments, high caseloads for social workers and the county’s wage proposal as reasons behind the strike.

Galindo said employees are unable to provide crucial services when the county isn’t supporting them with adequate wages and staffing.

“I can’t do my job unless the county is supporting me. Unless we addresses these vacancies, the turnover,” said Galindo. “Social workers are burnt out, we lose them daily because they’re working mandatory overtime.”

The county and union have not met for bargaining since the strike began Oct. 2.

County CEO Jeff Smith said the union has been “unwilling to come back to the table” while Mulissa Willette, an exemption investigator for the county Assessor’s Office and vice president of the county union, said the union would meet with the county if they come forward with a proposal that addresses their demands.

Supervisors are likely to discuss the bargaining issues in a closed session meeting late Monday afternoon.

On Friday, the county filed a state complaint against the union, claiming, among other things, that the workers violated the law by going on strike before it was clear that no deal …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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