Group home workers hold rally in Hartford, demanding liveable wage and benefits ahead of possible strike

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Group home workers and personal home care attendants who are threatening to strike at the end of the week held a rally in front of the legislative office building in Hartford Wednesday night.

They said they want what they call a livable wage and benefits. The works are warning Gov. Ned Lamont if it doesn’t happen by the end of the week, they’ll walk off the job.

One of their demands: a pathway to $20 an hour.

“This last year with COVID has been horrible with a lot of these group homes,” said Kimberly Ackerman, an SEIU District 1199 worker.

2020 was a year stained by the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic for healthcare workers.

Hatcher added, “We went through so much last year with COVID, being short-staffed, lack of PPE, being stressed out every day, hoping and praying that you won’t get sick.”

Union workers say they haven’t seen a pay increase in 14 years. They want to see a path to $20/hour, a path to retirement and affordable health care. A demand that’s going straight to the governor’s office.

Ackerman added, “He wants to pay the individuals $14.75 an hour? $14.75 an hour? Do you know that 30 hours of your monthly salary goes to pay for your health insurance?… A lot of people are on food stamps or are using the food banks to provide for their families because that $14.75 is just not enough.”

Oak Hill is Connecticut’s largest provider of services to people with disabilities. It’s a private company that’s contracted by the state, but the state sets the wages for what workers get paid.

Ackerman added of the governor, “He doesn’t want to tax the rich, but the poor shouldn’t have to suffer in the process.”

Something Oak Hill leadership stands behind, despite the threat of employees walking off the job.

David Hadden, a Board Chair at Oak Hill, said, “They are skilled professionals who bring commitment and courage to their work, and they are not being paid what they deserve.”

They’re hoping a deal is met soon, or Oak Hill leadership may have to act ahead of the potential Friday strike by moving disabled individuals to nursing homes as early as Thursday morning.

Oak Hill President Barry Simon said, “We have to be ready for a strike if that’s what it comes down to, and nobody wants that to happen.”

We reached out to the governor’s office to see if his administration has made any progress towards a deal. A spokesperson for Gov. Lamont tells us that talks remain constructive with both labor and industry.

If a deal is not met, union workers from group homes from across the state may strike Friday at 6 a.m.

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