County employees, claiming high turnover, are set to strike next week

Stanislaus County regional call center in 2013.
Stanislaus County regional call center in 2013.

Hundreds of social services employees who work for Stanislaus County are set to strike Monday, their union said.

Service Employees International Union Local 521 said the strike is related to an unfair labor practices claim. The union announced the strike publicly Friday afternoon and expects that 500 to 700 workers will participate. The county employees will walk picket lines at the Community Services Agency center on Hackett Road.

Late Friday afternoon, county Chief Executive Officer Jody Hayes said the county was made aware of the scheduled labor action. He said the county is prepared to maintain essential services Monday, but non-essential services may be interrupted if employees are not on the job.

A union representative said the strike is set for one day but it could continue further.

The SEIU Local 521 did not disclose details of the complaint in its press release. The strike comes after seven months of contract negotiations between the employees and the county. No agreement was reached in a negotiating session Thursday.

Social workers, child support specialists, community service workers, mental heath therapists, animal control and veterans’ service providers are among the employees represented by the union. The employees work with children, seniors and other vulnerable clients, assist the unemployed and reach out to the homeless.

The union said the county has not adequately funded critical social services, leading to under-staffing and high turnover. The news release said staff vacancies are putting hundreds of children at risk.

In a statement, SEIU Local 521 President Kate Selover said: “The Board of Supervisors has chosen not to prioritize staffing and funding for services that children, the elderly and disabled, veterans and the public in general need. The county is jeopardizing emergency response support, child protections and homeless support programs the people of Stanislaus County need to be safe and healthy.”

Hayes said the employees were offered the same salary increases as what was granted to the large number of county workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We have been trying to package a similar wage proposal for this group and they have been unable to agree,” Hayes said.