Connecticut’s independent home care personal care attendants (PCAs) rallied at the Governor’s Residence in Hartford on Tuesday to demand a fair contract from Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration.
A group of participants engaged in peaceful civil disobedience at the gates of the residence with 15 trespassing tickets issued by the Hartford Police Department.
“If Connecticut cares about advancing racial and pay equity, negotiate a fair contract with PCAs, the majority of whom are women of color that make poverty wages with no health insurance, retirement or paid time off”, said Diedre Murch, vice president of District 1199’s home care division. “This is a workforce that is 90 percent women. If the state of Connecticut cares about pay equity, if the state cares about racial equity then we need to settle contracts with Connecticut’s PCA.”
Long-term home care services in Connecticut rely on a workforce that is majority women, Black and Latina making poverty wages with no benefit protections such as affordable health insurance, paid time off or a path to retirement after providing decades of service.
“I would love to be at the rally in person, but I’m not physically able to attend. My PCAs give me the freedom to live independently, but they don’t have the ability to care for themselves. PCAs need higher wages, health insurance, and paid time off,” said Lynne Zimmer, a consumer of PCA home care services from New Haven. “It is an insult that the State of Connecticut will receive nearly $200 million from the federal government for home care services. But the governor has not made any commitments to put some of this funding toward PCA wages or benefits.
SEIU District 1199’s union contract with the State of Connecticut covers some 10,000 independent home care PCAs serving 6,000 people across the state. The contract expired at the end of June 2021, but was extended pending a new contract agreement between the state and the union workers. It’s time for our long-term care system to do away with poverty wages and protect quality services for our aging populations and people with disabilities.
“It’s a shame that we have to be out here in 2021 doing the very things that they did back in the sixties. I mean, we’re talking over 50 years of a struggle for people,” said Hamden and New Haven State Representative Robyn Porter. “Whatever the cost is, you can count on me. I will be here with you every step of the way… If we can get these things done right this year, then when are we going to make things right?”
If Connecticut truly cares about those of us with disabilities, they need to care about caregivers and settle a contract that gives PCAs dignity and freedom to care for themselves and us. Disability rights and workers’ rights must go hand in hand.”
“I think of all the people that you help as healthcare workers. That you’re there to make sure they have that dignity and that they can get through the hardest part of their lives. That they can have some stability in their lives. Is that possible if you as a healthcare workers don’t have stability in your own lives?” said Hartford State Representative Ed Vargas.
“Is it possible that you can care for others if you can’t even care for your own family? This is a fight that goes beyond nickel-and-dime or a dollar here and a dollar there. This is a fight for dignity. This is a fight to make sure that the work you’re doing is recognized. And you will win and we will support you all the way.”
Easton, Weston, and Redding State Representative Anne Hughes, as well as Vernon State Representative Mike Winkler and State Senator Julie Kushner representing Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield and Sherman were also present and spoke at the event.
Union home care workers are currently running a campaign to call on Gov. Lamont to make a wise investment in this workforce, including investing nearly $200 million in federal funding for home care services provided by President Joe Biden’s administration. The campaign is endorsed by national leaders Mary Kay Henry of SEIU, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II of the Poor People’s Campaign and Repairers of the Breach, and Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
New England Health Care Employees Union
District 1199, SEIU
“Together We Rise”
77 Huyshope Avenue, Hartford CT 06106