Frontline caregivers at Sunrise Group Home and Day Programs strike over wages, benefits

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Frontline caregivers went on strike Tuesday morning in demand of livable wages, affordable health insurance, and a pension for the workforce.

District 1199, SEIU, New England Health Care Employees Union said caregivers at Sunrise Group Home and Day Programs went on strike at 6 a.m. and plan to stay until 8 p.m.

Sunrise operates 28 group homes and day programs, which serve over 160 people in multiple locations in the state.

“Most of these workers are making less than $17 an hour,” Rob Baril, president of District 1199NE said “They have to pay $6,000 in monthly premiums for family health insurance coverage at Sunrise, and no retirement pension to look forward to in their elder years. Even after workers were able to leverage more than $184 million in additional state funding from Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration, Sunrise continues to deny a fair contract for its own workers while the CEO rakes in $325,000 per year.”

Union officials say the money isn’t reaching the employees. Livable wages, affordable health insurance, and a pension. Those are the asks.

“This particular company, they didn’t even put in an application for 30 million dollars in funding that has been provided by the state for their pension,” said Pedro Zayas, spokesperson for the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199 SEIU.

Jenifer Brown, a direct support professional at Sunrise Northeast has cared for clients Sunrise while maintaining two other jobs.

“We stay because we take care of our individuals. Our individuals become our family,” said Brown. “We are there for them. We give them medicine. We make them breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We bathe. We know when they’re sick. We know why they’re upset.”

In a statement, Sunrise Northeast Group said they are committed to reaching a contract that is sustainable for employees, includes wage increases and benefits.

“We submitted requests to the state last week seeking additional funding for healthcare and retirement and are awaiting those decisions,” Dawn Frey, executive director of Sunrise Northeast Group said. “We’ve tentatively agreed to wage increases and remain committed to negotiating, including over some Union proposals we just received last week. Our focus remains on reaching a fair contract that enables us to continue the good work our organization has done in Connecticut for years.”

“I don’t want to keep working like this,” Brown started. “If they give me a little bit more, I can quit one of the jobs.”

Picket lines formed at the following locations Tuesday morning

  • 80 Whitney St., Hartford
  • 474 Rt. 87, Columbia
  • 729 Montauk Ave., New London
  • 116 Hawkins St., Danielson

Caregivers on strike told News 8 they plan to picket Wednesday and meet with management on Thursday.

News 8 will continue following this developing story.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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