Workers who care for the disabled in privatized group homes and day programs have issued strike notices to nine private agency providers that operate services in 250 locations throughout the state. The strike notices received by employers today state 2,400 workers will strike May 7th beginning at 6 AM.
Workers had been set to strike April 18th but Governor Malloy sent a letter on April 4th asking members to postpone their April 18thstrike in order to give legislators time to come to an agreement on increase funding for their services and provide the needed wage enhancements.
With no deal in place workers voted April 25th to resend strike notices to employers. OPM Secretary Ben Barnes has presented legislators with a proposal that would raise the wage for workers to $14.25 and provide a 5% raise for workers currently earning more than $14.25 effective January 1, 2019.
Earlier this month workers released an ad highlighting the struggles lack of funding has on workers and clients. Watch the ad here:
“We’ve reached a crisis of underfunding in the care our state provides people with disabilities and the workers who care for them,” said SEIU 1199 spokesperson Jennifer Schneider. “When privatized group homes and programs are shuttering and workers are forced to work 80 hours a week just to make ends meet, something has to change. We thank Secretary Barnes for his work on this issue and encourage all legislators to put party differences aside and provide the vital funding increases needed for workers and clients alike.”
Funding for these private agency providers comes from the state and for over ten years the funding to this sector has been flat. This has caused low wages, high turnover and lack of affordable health care for workers.
“Legislators need to make caring for the disabled a priority and properly fund these services,” said Whole Life worker Kim Ackerman. “Our clients are like family and we are willing to fight to make sure they get the proper funding they deserve.” Ackerman has worked as a caregiver for the disabled for 24 years and earns $13.25/hour.
“For years the state has not properly funded services for the disabled,” said Oak Hill worker Janet Phillip-Smith. “Programs have closed, clients can’t get the high level of care they deserve and workers are struggling pay check to pay check. I’m committed to strike for my clients, my co-workers and my family.”
Workforce Statistics of Privatized Group Homes and Day Programs
-59% of employees are People of Color
-67% of employees are female
-30 agencies pay less than $13/hour, including 4 that pay less than $11/hour
-According to a survey of 1199 represented workers: Over one third (36%) of direct care workers said they rely on some form of state public assistance
9 agencies workers planned to strike:
- Oak Hill School
- Journey Found
- Alternative Services (ASI)
- Sunrise Northeast
- New Seasons
- New England Residential Services (NERS)
- Whole Life