The gains won by Los Angeles County social workers during their strike last December were nothing short of historic. Members of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), through the Children’s Social Workers union (part of Service Employees International Union Local 721), may have begun a sea change for children and families in the county. As the nation’s largest public child welfare agency, DCFS is now poised to be a bellwether for reform.
The job of the county’s social workers is to establish child safety, coordinate and evaluate visitation, substance abuse, mental health and domestic violence services; locate relative or foster care placements; prepare the children and transport them to placements; and for dependency court cases, prepare and write the court reports that are the basis for DCFS’ legal recommendations in legal proceedings.
As a former DCFS Supervising Social Worker, I believe that the high number of pre-strike caseloads severely hindered the ability of social workers to adequately provide services to maintain children at home or to reunify children with their parents and conduct thorough safety assessments.
Who says debating the need for a living wage is like talking to a brick wall? The recent experience of one health care provider and its employees shows how respectful and reasonable such discussions can be.
Tomorrow (Thursday, March 13), a pivotal agreement between labor and management will be announced that offers hope for the living wage movement. St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, a nonprofit network of community health centers, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 721 will unveil a new collective bargaining agreement that will result in the centers’ front-line health care employees receiving a $15 hourly living wage. The contract was unanimously ratified by rank and file members March 3.
St. John’s provides health services at 10 centers and clinics throughout Central and South Los Angeles. Its president and CEO, Jim Mangia, issued a statement that said, in part, “We put forward the proposal for a living wage because we want our health centers to be the best places to give and to receive care.