More than 1,700 group home care providers across the state are set to strike on Wednesday, May 24 at 6:00 AM, in demand of living wages, affordable health insurance, and funding for retirement.
Strike notices for an indefinite work stoppage starting on May 24 were delivered to the following group home agencies: Oak Hill, Mosaic, Whole Life, Network, Caring Community, and Alternative Services, Inc.
“Connecticut must end poverty for all caregivers. Group home workers keep showing up to work because they love caring for others, because they believe that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities should have access to the opportunities and supports that let all of us enjoy a meaningful life,” said Rob Baril, President of the New England Health Care Employees Union, SEIU 1199NE. “Even after all these workers and families went through during the pandemic, essential workers and caregivers in Connecticut are still struggling with poverty.”
Connecticut’s group home services require $400 million in additional Medicaid funding in the state’s biennial budget to lift workers out of poverty with a pathway to $25/hr minimum wage, access to affordable healthcare, and a pension that allows workers to retire after decades of service.
It is important to note that group home services in Connecticut receive 50% matching funds from the federal government. The additional investment of $400 million in additional Medicaid funding for this workforce is $200 million in state dollars, with the remaining $200 million to be funded by federal dollars.
Union group home workers going on strike include direct support and direct care staff, dietary workers, maintenance staff, program aides, job coaches, assistant managers, assistant program coordinators, residential day program workers, assistant teachers, behavior paraprofessionals, and some licensed practical nurses.
“I work two full-time jobs to maintain a two-person household, and I still have to pick up extra hours at the end of the week,” said Stacy Heyliger, direct support staff with eight years of experience from Network Inc. in Manchester. “My job is to get to know my clients like I’m getting to know myself, so I can care for them the way that I would want to be cared for. I love the people I work with, but you find it hard to do it for the pay and benefits we get. The work is very strenuous on our bodies, and many of us can’t even afford to go to the doctor to take care of ourselves. It drains you.”
SEIU District 1199NE, the New England Health Care Employees Union, represents over 25,000 caregivers in Connecticut and some 4,000 in Rhode Island. Historically known as “1199” going back to the Civil Rights Movement, we are a bold, democratic Union with a long activist tradition fighting for racial and economic justice to improve the lives of Black, Latina, Native American, AAPI, and white working-class communities.
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