Home care providers with SEIU 1199NE, supported by community and elected leaders including Reverend Josh Pawelek, shut down the intersection of Capitol Ave, Trinity St., Washington St., and Lafayette St. next to the Capitol building this afternoon to demand Governor Lamont allocate funding for livable wages and basic benefits such as health insurance and paid sick days, neither of which they currently have.
Twenty were arrested in an act of civil disobedience to highlight their struggle to survive during a global pandemic on low wages and without health insurance or paid sick days. They urged the governor to “walk a day in our shoes” as essential workers caring for Connecticut’s older residents and those with disabilities to understand the critical importance of investing in them and their work.
“I’m doing 3 people’s jobs, but I’m making less than minimum wage. If things don’t get better, I will have to leave and find another job,” said Isaac Kolonziaa, a personal care assistant from South Windsor. “Is this the American Dream many of us came to this country in search of? Governor Lamont, would you walk a day in my shoes by leaving your home and immigrating to another country just to end up drowning in medical debt in search of the American Dream?”
The state of Connecticut has 10,000 home care providers under a state contract who work for low wages and insufficient benefits while providing in-home support to those most in need. Union members say they urgently need the state to fund living wages and benefits that will enable them to support their families and stay healthy. One by one, they shared devastating stories about trying to access care, pay bills, and keep their heads above water in the midst of a pandemic.
“We gather this afternoon – homecare workers and their good friends – to engage in a moral fight for dignity in the workplace. But this is not just a fight for fair compensation and benefits. We are fighting for human dignity, for respect, for a more just society. And we will win!” Reverend Josh Pawelek told the crowd.
As they enter their third year of providing essential healthcare services during a pandemic that placed the largest burden on low-income communities and people of color, Connecticut’s home care providers are demanding the state values their services. Home care providers in Connecticut are Black, Brown, and white working people, 80% of whom are women. They are asking the Governor to provide funding for their upcoming contract to include a path to $20 per hour and benefits like affordable health insurance, paid sick leave, and retirement planning.
Home care providers are so underpaid and undervalued that some of those who participated in the event at the Capitol are currently homeless. A January 2022 survey found that due to the state’s low wages, 50% of home care providers have taken unpaid days off in the last six months due to illness or quarantine, 26% have unpaid medical debt, and 32% have been behind on rent or mortgage payments in the last year.
SEIU 1199NE members are speaking out on billboards across Hartford to tell Governor Lamont “I Care For Your Loved Ones But I Can’t Afford Three Meals A Day.” Emblazoned on the billboards and during today’s action, home care workers invited the governor to join them on the job for a day. They know that if Governor Lamont spends the day with a home care provider, he will see not only how rewarding and challenging their work truly is, but also the unacceptable sacrifices they must make in order to survive on low wages and little benefits. They want him to experience the context around their demands and understand why it is so important to invest in them in their work.
“When will the work that is traditionally done by women of color like me be seen as just as essential as any other public responder?” said Dilliner Jordan, a home care provider for more than 30 years, after sharing that she has been homeless for the last six months and goes without health insurance. “I love this work, but we’re like a dog chasing our tail; we’re not living, we’re just existing. Governor Lamont, would you walk a day in my shoes, a homecare worker who’s homeless and without health insurance?
Today, the need for home care in Connecticut is greater than ever. Exhausted, underpaid and with little-to-no benefits, providers are leaving the home care workforce in record numbers, with annual turnover estimated between 30 and 50 percent per year. Meanwhile, demand is rising exponentially as the population of older people grows and more people seek home care during the pandemic. A meaningful investment in care would not only improve existing home care jobs, it would attract high quality providers to meet growing needs in Connecticut.
“We simply cannot accept the fact that state-funded work leaves home care providers too poor to avoid homelessness or forced to literally choose between food and medicine. Making the lives of home care providers, the majority of whom are women and people of color, matter requires seeing them and moving dollars – for livable wages, for health insurance, for retirement.” SEIU 1199NE President Rob Baril said. “We hope by walking a day in a home care worker’s shoes, Governor Lamont will become a champion for this too-often invisible workforce.”
Contact: Diedre Murch, SEIU District 1199NE, firstname.lastname@example.org
Related Media Coverage
- Home care workers block Hartford street, demand better wages – Associated Press
- 20 Arrested During Protest Outside State Capitol: Hartford Police – NBC Connecticut
- 20 Arrested In Homecare Worker Protest – CT News Junkie
- Dozens arrested during health care protest in Hartford – WTNH News 8
- 21 arrests in home care workers union protest – WTIC Radio
- SEIU 1199 Capitol Protest – WTIC-HFD (FOX); Fox 61 News at 4 (Also at 10pm, 11pm)
- SEIU 1199 Capitol Protest – WVIT-HFD (NBC); NBC CT News at 5pm (Also at 6pm, 7pm, 11pm)
- SEIU 1199 Capitol Protest – WTNH-NH (ABC); News 8 at 5pm (Also at 6pm, 9pm, 11pm)
- SEIU 1199 Capitol Protest – WFSB-HFD (CBS) Eyewitness News at 5:30 PM
- SEIU 1199 Capitol Protest – WTIC-AM (Radio) at 6pm (Also at 7pm, 11pm, 12am, 1am, 2am, 4am,)
- Interview with Dilliner Jordan – WTIC-AM (Radio) at 10pm
- SEIU 1199 Capitol Protest – WTNH-NH (ABC) Good Morning Connecticut at 4am