Hundreds of Group Home Workers Threaten to Strike on Oct. 5

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Hundreds of unionized group home workers in Connecticut are threatening to walk off the job next month if settlements aren’t reached on new labor contracts.

The New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU, delivered strike notices on Tuesday to two private agencies — Whole Life Inc. and Network Inc. — which have about 70 locations across the state that could be affected. The union’s deadline for an agreement is 6 a.m. on Oct. 5.

The threat of a strike, which would involve more than 500 workers at group homes and day programs for people with developmental disabilities, comes more than three months after state officials authorized $184 million to increase wages and benefits for group home workers. The union said these remaining two group home operators have failed to settle on new agreements, despite the additional funding.

In July, a threatened strike by more than 2,100 group home workers at 200 homes was called off after a late-night agreement for higher wages and improved benefits was reached with the help of Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration.

“The State of Connecticut stepped up and provided funding that was adequate,” said Rob Baril, the union president, in a written statement. “Now it’s time for these agencies to do the same: to provide people with pensions, affordable health insurance and enough wages that people can take care of their families.”

Messages were left seeking comment with representatives from Whole Life and Network. According to the union, the staffers have been working without a contract since 2019.

Most of the state’s unionized group home workers earn $14 to $15 an hour to care for people with physical and mental disabilities. With the additional state funding, they are expected to receive up to $17.25 an hour next year. Baril said the workforce, which is “overwhelmingly female” and “majority Black and brown, with the remainder being working-class white folks,” often work 80 or more hours a week.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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