Approximately 2,500 out of about 19,000 direct care specialists in Connecticut are prepared for a strike next week if they do not receive a raise.
The members of SEIU 1199 have not received a raise in 12 years, and are looking for their wages to achieve a floor of $14.75 an hour. The group says most employees make less than that, while there are some who make more.
Democrats pushed Wednesday for a solution that would send millions to the Connecticut Department of Developmental Disabilities and the Department of Social Services to provide those funds to the nine providers facing strikes.
“This is a mechanism by which additional moneys will be made available to lift up the wages of all 19,000 of these grossly underpaid workers, most of whom live at or near the poverty line," said Rep. Michael D'Agostino, (D - Hamden), who sponsored the legislation aimed at fending off the strike.
The providers facing strikes are all private providers who work on a contract basis for the state. They are Oak Hill School, Mosaic Inc, Alternative Services ASI, Sunrise, New Seasons, New England Residential Services, Whole Life, Network Inc and Journey Found.
Republicans say they do not see the need to rush through legislation that provides the raises. They are seeing more information on the individual providers' agreements with the state and their employees.
“We have to really understand those contracts. What they say, what they are," Sen. Len Fasano, (R - North Haven), the GOP President Pro Tem of the Senate. “It seems like they’re rushing this issue through.”
Laverne Hatcher has provided care to the same client for three years.
"I'll take him to musical fairs and art classes and we do all of that and it’s bringing him to be able to deal to be in the community with other people," she said of her daily responsibilities.
Hatcher says a higher living wage is an issue of financial security.
“The reason we’re striking is because we haven’t had a raise in 12 years and lately it’s become so hard to even pay my bills. I have to decide sometime whether I’m going to pay my light bill or gas bill and I don’t think it’s fair.”
The Connecticut House approved a measure to provide more money to workers on an 88-62 vote, with some Republicans voting with Democrats.
The bill now goes to the Connecticut Senate. The strike could happen next Monday.