Mendocino County workers plead with Board of Supervisors and CEO to prioritize public services
The County CEO and Board continue to claim ignorance about the budget as services and workers suffer
Rain and cold can’t stop Mendocino County workers from taking a stand for public services.
With each week that goes by, more Mendocino County employees resign to work for neighboring counties or for other organizations. In Family and Children’s Services, the vacancy rate is already over 40 percent and climbing, with at least six more employees jumping ship in October alone. And that is not just inconvenient for the staff who remain: It’s dangerous and could even cost lives.
Yet the Mendocino County CEO and her administration have refused to take even modest steps to stanch the bleeding by addressing subpar wages and benefits, while the Board of Supervisors refuses to hold her accountable. They have been keeping their distance from the negotiations that have dragged on since April and claiming not to have a grip on the county’s budget.
So once again, county workers flooded the Board of Supervisors meeting last Tuesday, Nov. 8, to send their elected leaders (none of whom was up for reelection this year) a special Election Day message: fix this mess now or face accountability later.
“I’ve emailed each of you, begging you to please listen to us about how short-staffed we currently are in my department. When I emailed you, I mentioned we were at 500 cases per eligibility specialist. Now at this time, we’re expected to be moved up to 750 cases per eligibility specialist,” said Sarah Hoffart, an eligibility specialist for the county. “That’s 750 people that I am responsible for feeding and paying for their rent through Calworks, Calfresh, and Medi-Cal. I’m only allowed 40 hours a week to work these cases. I receive calls, the semiannual reports, and renewals. How am I supposed to help your community with this time I’m given? Currently, in my unit, we have three people. We have enough seating in my unit for nine people. Why are we so shorty-staffed? Because you are not listening to us. We need help. We need to be given a living wage.
“I used to love coming to my job,” Hoffart continued. “I used to love serving people and walking into that door with a huge smile on my face. Now, because of how short-staffed we are, I hate coming into my work, because I know I’m going to get called and yelled at because we’re not working in an effective manner. I have people who turned in their reports in October and I’m just now getting to them. My phone is always blinking because I cannot answer the phone. We are what keeps people from being homeless and starving their children. We need help.”
Cerre Knox, a social worker supervisor who has worked for the Department of Social Services for 22 years, also aired her frustration. “I’m here because I’m tired. I’m tired of watching my colleagues work 60-hour work weeks just to keep their heads above water. I’m tired of watching my colleagues miss out with their own families to ensure those in the community are safe and have the support they need. I’m tired of staff falling apart because they can’t keep up with the immense amount of work with no bodies in seats to help them do it. I’m tired of nervously watching the staffing announcements every day with the endless news of staff that are moving on due to better wages in neighboring counties or other organizations. Why work for you when they can go to a surrounding county and start out making no less than $5 an hour more than here?
“Shoot, a youth working at a fast food restaurant that I oversee on my caseload will begin making $20 an hour next month. That’s more than a majority of county positions. That’s a slap in the face,” continued Knox. “You need to provide competitive livable wages for your workforce. You need to help us fill the seats of the offices again so that people are not drowning and burning out and services can be provided. God forbid a child or elderly or disabled member of our community dies due to abuse or neglect. It won’t be the staff’s fault, who were drowning and barely staying afloat. The fault lies with each and every one of you up there today.”
A series of digital ads calling to wake up CEO Darcie Antle have gotten plenty of traction in recent weeks; now radio ads have also started airing as county workers ramp up pressure to settle a fair contract before the year’s end.