HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Overnight Friday, group home workers withdrew notices for a strike due to begin Friday morning after agreeing on a $184-million state funding package for the next two years.
Therefore, 2,100 caregivers will no longer be striking Friday morning to demand liveable wages and benefits, since a deal was reached between the involved parties.
“We believe this additional funding will resolve the open contracts. We have made substantial
progress toward our goals for a $20 minimum wage, with major progress on retirement and other
benefits,” said Rob Baril, president of District 1199 New England, SEIU. “This is a great victory
for racial and economic justice for the majority of Black and Latina women who make up this
workforce of caregivers. All strike notices have been immediately withdrawn.”
This funding agreement impacts group home workers for Oak Hill, Whole Life, Sunrise, Network,
Mosaic and Journey Found. The Union the SEIU said this is the second major settlement for long-term care workers in Connecticut in the past month. They said that over 4,000 union nursing home workers negotiated new contracts with higher wages and benefits.
This story has been archived and the latest details can be found HERE.
Below is previous reporting on this story before a deal was reached.
“So the worst-case scenario is at hand. If we have to move people to nursing homes, that’s the worst-case scenario,” said Oak Hill President and CEO Barry Simon.
For 30 years Simon has led the state’s largest provider of services to people with disabilities. He’s now in a race against time – already shifting group home residents in anticipation of a possible workers strike.
“We’ve done internal moves, combining people into group homes, allowing parents to take their kids home,” explained Simon. “They’re highly anxious. They’re terrified of this.”
The next step—the one for which he’s running down the clock in hopes the state and union SEIU District 1199 will come to an agreement—is to move hundreds of residents to nursing homes.
“It’s probably going to take us somewhere in the neighborhood of six hours to make all the moves complete. It’s nothing I take lightly, it’s nothing I want to do and it’s frankly dangerous for the people who have to be moved.”
Karen Neag told News 8 Thursday she is pulling her 24-year-old daughter out of a group home just 15 minutes from her own home. A convenience not so convenient anymore.
“I’m taking her out tonight thinking it could be days before I have a proper night’s sleep and that’s dangerous for everybody,” Naeg told us. “My concern is that after all of this is that we won’t find people who won’t want to come back to work with our kids. We need to make this a job that’s honorable as well as sustainable to their lifestyles of their direct care providers…She has a nice day program that she goes to she has very loving staff members that are here working with her I don’t wanna lose that.”
“We need funding such that group home workers can reach a standard of $20 an hour over time with health care and retirement for all,” said Union President Rob Baril.
Baril says four group home workers died from COVID-19 infections he says they caught on the job. Both Baril and Simon say the state needs to step up funding—essentially paying more for the services the homes provide and for which the government bills Medicaid—after more than a decade of little to no pay increases. Governor Ned Lamont says he wants to increase funding for group homes but that it’s a sticking point as he works to hammer out a new state budget with the legislature.
“We’ve gotta have a budget that includes money for the group homes that’s the nature of a balanced budget and we’ve got a plan in place to do that,” said Gov. Lamont Thursday.
Exacerbating things, say the group home operators, is a staffing crisis that has seen the number of available temp workers, who would normally step in during a strike, plummet. Simon says out of 600 open positions, he was able to fill 13.