The New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU, settled on a new contract for group home and day program workers at Whole Life Inc., pending member ratification. Upon the new agreement with Whole Life, the Union canceled the strike notification that was set for Oct. 5.
Whole Life Inc., operating over 39 locations with 300+ workers in the Bridgeport, Central and Eastern Connecticut areas, becomes the second community programs agency (group home and day program providers) reaching agreement with the Union based on the additional Medicaid funding allocated by the State of Connecticut for the next two years.
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“Once again we make historic progress in advancing the lives of Black, Latina and white working-class caregivers who have sacrificed so much during this pandemic,” said Rob Baril, president of District 1199 New England, SEIU. “These dedicated workers are getting a significant improvement on wages, with increases in health insurance and pension contributions so those new wages can go in their pockets.”
The new agreement is retroactive to July 31, 2021, expiring in March 2023. Minimum rates will start at $16.50 per hour, with a $17.25 per hour minimum in 2022. Other raises range from 9% over two years for the most senior to no less than 7% over two years. Juneteenth was recognized as a new paid holiday.
“This is one more example of what we can win when we fight together for racial and economic justice. I can’t believe how long workers have been able to survive without affordable health insurance. This contract is going to make a huge difference in workers’ lives,” said Sherry Delorme, a direct support staff caregiver with 19 years of experience at Whole Life.
Workers will enjoy up to 90% coverage of insurance premiums, with most senior staff paying $20 biweekly, and an increase in pension contributions to 9.5%. The agreement also includes provisions that they will not lose any accrued paid time off for two years to protect them from losing time off due to short staffing around COVID.
“Yes, we were ready to strike if necessary for the dignity we deserve. Our victory will pave a path for all group home workers to have their work valued like it should be,” This contract is going to make a huge difference in workers’ lives,” said Bob Santos, assistant manager with three years of experience at Whole LIfe. “This is only the beginning of our fight.”
Additional compensation will also be provided for mandated shifts and locations. The parties also agreed to track and review disciplinary action to address concerns of potential racial and gender discrimination.
While the Union called off the pending strike at Whole Life Inc. and previously at Network Inc., the members of District 1199 persist in their intent to strike at Sunrise and Alternative Services (ASI), affecting roughly 160 and 100 workers respectively, effective October 12th at 6:00 AM. More strike votes are underway at multiple community program group home agencies.
Last June, group home workers secured an additional $184 million in state funding as part of the Union’s Long-Term Care Workers Bill of Rights campaign to pay for wage increases, reduce health insurance costs and solidify pension contributions. But except for Network Inc., community program operators have failed to settle on new agreements.
Group home and day program workers, and the majority of their colleagues at other agencies are making $14 to $15 an hour caring for individuals with disabilities in a long-term care setting that remained severely underfunded for the past 15 years.
District 1199 New England nursing home workers were able to settle dozens of new contracts during the summer after securing millions of dollars in additional funding from the state. The Union represents more than 4,000 group home and day program workers in nonprofit community program agencies across Connecticut.
Contact: Pedro Zayas, firstname.lastname@example.org, 860-830-2478
District 1199, SEIU, New England Health Care Employees Union