ore than 3,500 L.A. County social workers are going on strike today to protest stalled contract negotiations. The walkout could spread beyond social workers, though, because other union employees are being urged to respect the picket lines. Today’s strike marks the first time in a decade that county workers have walked off the job. The county and the Service Employees International Union Local 721 have reportedly agreed to a six percent raise for the social workers, but the timing of that raise and workers’ caseloads remain sticking points…More Southern Californians are living in poverty. A new report finds that 18 percent of residents in L.A., Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and Imperial counties are leaving below the federal poverty line. That’s up 5 points in the past two decades, and it accounts for more than three million people. Imperial County is in the worst shape, with more than 23 percent of residents living in poverty. The report comes from the Southern California Association of Governments, which will release its findings today…Meanwhile, California’s economy is looking up – if you live within hailing distance of the beach. The latest survey by UCLA’s Anderson Forecast finds a tale of two states. California’s coastal counties have been experiencing job growth that is better than the nation as a whole. But the opposite is true in many inland counties. The Inland Empire – Riverside and San Bernardino counties – has been hit especially hard by the economic turmoil of recent years. The unemployment rate in the region is 9.8 percent, compared to 5.8 percent in Orange County…The LA City Council is cracking down on e-cigarettes – those battery-powered, vapor-producing electronic cigarettes that are increasing in use among young people. The council unanimously approved an ordinance requiring vendors to sell e-cigarettes in the same way they sell conventional tobacco products. That means obtaining a city permit and verifying the age of buyers to make sure they aren’t minors. The new ordinance also covers hookah pens and dissolvable nicotine products such as lollipops and lozenges. L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca is acknowledging that his department did a poor job of examining the backgrounds of hundreds of deputies who were hired after a county police agency disbanded. Dozens of those former county officers had been found guilty of serious misconduct. That included officers who had sex at work, mistakenly fired their weapons and cheated on the Sheriff’s Department’s polygraph test. Baca says officials will go back over the list to see if anyone was hired who should not have been given a job…And finally, a pair of new surveys find that Gov. Jerry Brown holds wide leads over his potential Republican challengers in next year’s election. The Field Poll shows him up 40 points among registered voters. The Public Policy Institute of California gives him a 30-point lead among likely voters. Brown hasn’t said yet if he’s running, but he’s already raised more than $13 million in a campaign fund.
Social workers walk off job over staffing, pay issues
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