NUHW members strike Janus of Santa Cruz

NewsSeptember 25, 2019

NUHW members at Janus of Santa Cruz held their first-ever strike on Thursday, September 26, after management imposed a first contract that did not remedy poverty wages that has forced many workers to find new jobs.

“I love Janus, but I couldn’t afford to stay full-time at a job that paid so little that my family had to move into a trailer,” said Matt Van Nuys, who recently stopped working full-time at Janus to take a higher paying job. “It’s painful to see how many dedicated people have left because they couldn’t afford to keep living in Santa Cruz.”

The strike was covered by KION-5, the Santa Cruz Sentinel and City on a Hill Press.

In the nearly two years since Janus workers joined NUHW, more than 60 percent of them have left for other jobs. With its workforce in constant flux, state records show that Janus is serving fewer clients and forcing more of them to wait for services that were once immediately accessible — worsening Santa Cruz’s addiction crisis. Between 2016 and 2018, the number of people put on waiting lists for outpatient substance use treatment more than tripled, according to Janus’ filing with state regulators. The number of people placed on waiting lists for inpatient care nearly doubled over the same period.

“Every day I have to apologize to clients who are desperate to turn their lives around, and tell them that I’ll put you on the waiting list,” said Jammie Arterberry, a Janus admissions counselor. “We can’t address the addiction crisis in Santa Cruz if we can’t keep enough workers to see clients through to recovery.”

Many front-line caregivers at Janus of Santa Cruz are struggling to survive on wages well below the county’s $16.85 hourly living wage rate. Last year, Janus employees worked with county officials to secure up to $500,000 in additional federal funding for Janus, but Janus executives have failed to take the necessary steps to maximize funding that could be used to pay workers a living wage. Janus was also recently cited by the National Labor Relations Board for retaliating against a worker, who is active in the union.

“Santa Cruz County taxpayers provide the majority of Janus’ funding, and we have a stake in making sure that Janus is operating in the best interests of its clients,” said Santa Cruz County Supervisor John Leopold, who walked the picket line. “With the high turnover of staff and reports of retaliation against employees, Janus needs to respect their employees and ensure that our county has the strongest team to help clients succeed.”