Home Workers Prepare for Another Strike this Fall


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Tyler Dyer, News Editor

As said by union officials, more than 600 group home workers are prepared to strike on October 5th, months after a deal meant to avoid a strike, unless contract negotiations with the agencies that run the homes move forward. The group homes and day programs for individuals with disabilities run by Whole Life, Inc. and Network Inc. will receive notice of an intention to strike on September 21, according to New England Health Care Employees Union SEIU District 1199 President Rob Baril.

The union members state they will strike to fight for increased wages and benefits promised by the state of Connecticut in June. The union is seeking a pathway to $20 an hour for employees who provide direct care to group home occupants and $30 an hour for licensed practical nurses who provide support to group homes. Union members are also striking for more affordable health care, retirement benefits, better staffing, and more respect for the job they do, union officials said.

Connecticut set aside $184 million for wage increases for nursing home and group home workers. Gov. Ned Lamont says owners have the money to pay workers more, and additional state money is not on the table. Group home workers still threatened to walk out this summer, but state lawmakers reached a last-minute deal. According to Baril and others, the October 5th strike is not against the state. It is against the owners of the group homes who have refused to negotiate the increased funding into their contracts.

The group homes narrowly avoided a strike planned for early this June when the state finally came to the table offering money for wage increases, health care, and a path to retirement. The union still plans to file strike notices against at least two more group homes later this week. Susan Pearson, executive director of Network Inc. told News 12 that a strike would be “catastrophic.” Workers said that most staff at group homes make between $14 and $15 an hour while paying up to $500 a month for health insurance. Staff members are sometimes required to stay at the home and care for the patients for several days in a row since there is a staffing shortage. Workers often do not get to sleep or take care of themselves, she said. “We deserve a fair contract,” Taylor said. “We’re not in this to get rich.”

Pearson stated they are grateful for what the governor and legislature have done. The funding for wage increases came through, but the funding for the pensions has not been allocated yet. She said they are expected to have their pension information to the state by October 6th. It is the third time in five months that union officials have sent strike notices to group homes. The union issued strike notifications in June for Oak Hill, Network Inc., Whole Life, Mosaic, Journey Found, and Sunrise after withdrawing the notices in May.