Union long-term care workers and leaders were detained for acts of peaceful civil disobedience Thursday in Hartford in demand that the state provide funding to pay for structural changes that will let workers have a living wage, benefits and the capacity to retire with dignity.
Rally participants picketed in front of 410 Capitol Avenue with offices for the Department of Public Health, the Office of Policy & Management, and Department of Developmental Services. Detentions were made when some rally goers entered the building and sat down.
“Do you know what’s in the budget for nursing home workers? Do you know what’s in the budget for home care workers? Do you know what’s in the budget for group home workers? Nothing. There’s nothing for you in the budget,” said Union President Rob Baril. “Long-term care workers should not have to work late into their 70s to pay their bills. Everyone deserves to have a pension so we can retire with dignity and respect. We’re just fighting for basic human rights.”
Thousands of long-term care workers have incomes below the poverty line, more than half don’t have access to affordable health insurance or options to retire. Group home workers at Sunrise, for example, are asked to pay a $2,800 biweekly deductible for family medical coverage. Some 22 union members have died in the past year due to COVID-19 complications.
“How can we tell these workers at the Legislature that they are not a priority in the state budget. After all they’ve been through, how can we vote to pass a budget that does not make an investment in them? We forget that most of us have elderly and disabled loved ones who need care, and that one day we may also need these services to survive. Long-term care workers need livable wages and benefits. They work too hard, they are too important in our communities and they deserve no less. It is our responsibility to care for these workers the way they are willing to care for each and every one of us,” said State Representative Manny Sanchez.
“I now have three consumers, work 11 hours per day, and 73 hours per week,” said Nicole Bongiovanni, personal care attendant for home care services since 2004. “As PCAs, we don’t have health insurance, sick days or retirement. I make too much to qualify for Husky, and health insurance on the exchange would cost me $700 per month. I can’t afford that, so I pay $425 out of the pocket to see my heart doctor. Last June, I had a heart attack and was rushed by ambulance to hospital. I stayed for 3 days and got a bill for $25,000. Everybody should have health insurance, but especially those of us who have worked on the front lines and survived COVID.”
“As a diabetic, I need insulin. When my income periodically drops and I qualify for Husky, the insulin I need has no copay. But when my income goes up a little and I get bumped off Husky again, my insulin costs $600 and I have to stop taking it. I’ve since partially lost my sight,” said home care worker Terrell Williams, a PCA from New Haven. We care for the most vulnerable; but many of us are vulnerable too. PCAs are majority women and people of color, and most of us are struggling just to breathe, to make ends meet, and to live. All we’re asking for is to be able to care for ourselves, too.
“We must take action to support long-term care workers and make right the historical wrong that undervalues the work of caregivers, who are primarily women of our Black, Brown, and immigrant communities. Our state cannot call these workers “heroes” while it relies on poverty wages to keep the long-term care system running. We must invest in a fair recovery that supports these services at their real value to lift these workers out of poverty,” said State Representative Kate Farrar.
Contact: Pedro Zayas, firstname.lastname@example.org, 860-830-2478
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