For the first time in more than a decade, LA County’s social workers will go on strike today at 10am today.

Up to 4,000 of the employees of the county’s Department of Children and Family Services are expected to demonstrate at over 16 locations across Los Angeles County.

LA County Children’s Social Workers are represented by SEIU Local 721, which represents a total of 55,000 county workers.

“Our members are putting it on the line because they need to be able to do their jobs right. They want to help kids who need it,” said SEIU 721 President Bob Schoonover. “The County needs to get its priorities straight and put child safety first. With so many kids’ lives on the line, the Supervisors should be putting every available resource into social services.”

The CSW bargaining team is asking for a reduction in social worker-to-child ratios and for the county to hire and train more social workers. Specifically, the union has asked the county to adhere to a maximum caseload of 30 children per social worker and to hire nearly 600 additional social workers. Over 66% of the current workforce manages a caseload of 31 children or more.

“We’ve done everything we can to convince LA County leaders to pay attention to child safety, but they’ve flat-out refused,” said Chychy Ekeochah, a Children’s Social Worker and chair of the CSW bargaining team. “They may have given up on the County’s most vulnerable children, but we haven’t. We’re going to keep advocating for these kids. They deserve the best possible care and service—and we want to be able to provide it.”

seiu 721According to SEIU spokesperson Lowell Goodman, negotiators were able to reach settlements on 25 of the 28 bargaining units. Pay increases of 6%, bonuses and county contributions to employees’ health care plans have been approved, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. The discussions reached an impasse on Tuesday and the strike was declared last night.

LA County CEO William Fujioka questioned the move by SEIU 721, given that negotiators were nearing a settlement.

“It is disappointing that they are willing to take an action that will have such a serious impact on public services when we are so close to finalizing an agreement,” Fujioka said to the Los Angeles Times.

A flyer released by SEIU Local 721 that details the union’s position can be viewed below: