Social Worker, Santa Clara County In Home Support Services
On top of their heavy caseloads, salaries for social
workers and eligibility workers are not competitive in the Silicon Valley
job market. The cost of living here is out of this world,
adds Castillo. How can eligibility workers make it earning $18 or
$19 an hour? You just cant.
The chapter decided to do something about it. Following
hard bargaining, they increased wages for workers 12.5%. And, following
a lengthy arbitration, they began the process of bringing caseloads under
control. In a dispute with the county over its unilateral attempt to alter
case assignments, an arbitrator ruled in the unions favor to decrease
caseloads nearly 20%. The ruling also established a joint labor/management
task force to discuss ongoing issues of caseload and social worker recruitment
Before he came to IHSS, Castillo was a member of the UAW and worked the night shift at Ford Motor Company. It was there that he learned some hard lessons in labor management relations. There were one to two thousand of us working the night shift. A week before Christmas, the entire shift was laid off, recalls Castillo. Without warning, they handed us pink slips. We had been there less than a year. They decided to do it so they wouldnt have to pay us any severance pay. It was very calculated.
A few months after Castillo took a job with the county, workers walked out. Even then, they were fighting for caseload standards. I was still in my probationary period, but I stayed out. I was raised you dont cross picket lines, declares Castillo. I got to know a lot of people whose relationships Ive maintained to this day. That strike taught me the power of collective action and you dont improve services for clients at the expense of workers rights.
We work here because we care about people, especially the most vulnerable in our society. But to do our jobs effectively, we need to be respected, paid a decent wage, and participate in the decisions that affect our lives. Thats why I got involved in the union. To ensure that our voices are being heard.