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CT Group-Home Workers Could Strike Over Wages, Insurance Costs

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Monday, September 27, 2021   

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Caregivers at group homes in Connecticut have sent strike notices to two agencies after failure to reach contract agreements to increase wages and reduce health-insurance costs.

Roughly 500 union workers with the agencies Whole Life and Network Human Services are prepared to walk out Oct. 5.

After working through the pandemic understaffed and with low pay, group-home workers received $184 million from the state through the Service Employees International Union's (SEIU) Long-term Care Workers Bill of Rights. It would increase wages to $16.50 an hour this year, and $17.25 the following year.

Kevin Mackie, a direct support staff worker for 32 years at Network Human Services, said the agency will not discuss raises despite having the state funds.

"We're not talking a huge amount of money here," Mackie contended. "We've waited a very long time for raises. And it's been a very long time coming, because we are always forgotten. We're the forgotten employees working with the forgotten people."

Representatives from Whole Life and Network Human Services did not respond to requests for comment. Contract negotiations for Network employees are set to resume today. They have been without a contract since March. Whole Life workers have been without a new contract since 2019.

Kindra Fontes-May, organizer for SEIU 1199 New England, said it is also important to look at the workers' grievances through a racial-justice lens.

"Part of why the workforce is so forgotten is that the majority of the workforce is Black and brown, and primarily women; white, working-class people," Fontes-May outlined. "And when you deal with populations like that, who are also giving care to folks that are disabled, it is very easy to overlook it."

Fontes-May added many Connecticut group-home workers have requested racial-justice language be included in their new contracts. So far, facility administrators have not agreed.


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