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Agreement reached between state and group home workers, ending weekslong strike in CT

Members of SEIU 1199NE march in front of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford as they launch an indefinite strike to demand wage increases.

17,000+ members of SEIU 1199 New England launch an indefinite strike at group homes and day program facilities across Connecticut. The state funded workers currently start at $17 an hour, a wage that they blame for chronic staffing problems in the industry.
Tyler Russell
/
Connecticut Public
Members of SEIU 1199NE marched at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford May 24, 2023, as they launched a strike to demand wage increases.

A strike has ended at group homes that care for developmentally disabled people. The leader of the union representing the striking workers said Thursday employees will receive a 7% raise in the first year of the contract, but no raise in the second year of the two-year deal.

Group home and day program members of the New England Health Care Employees Union, SEIU 1199NE, agreed to new contracts at six agencies. The agreement ended a weekslong strike.

Union President Rob Baril said the deal is a step in the right direction, but after years of flat funding, it was "far short of what is needed."

"We see this as a victory, but [it's an] incremental change, as opposed to a transformational one," Baril said. "The real victory was that we now have many hundreds of leaders across the union who really feel part of a movement to end poverty for long-term care workers."

This new round of state funding brings the average worker salary up to $18.50 an hour.

The group homes are mostly funded through the state of Connecticut. The General Assembly and the governor set aside $150 million dollars to pay for the raises. But that was less than the $200 million the union was originally seeking when it went on strike.

Over 1,700 group home and day program caregivers began striking on Wednesday, May 24, at six agencies that provide services for 1,500 individuals with disabilities: Oak Hill, Mosaic, Whole Life, Network, Caring Community, and Alternative Services, Inc.

Janice Favreau’s son is a resident at one of the striking homes. She said the lack of funding for group homes impacts residents. Living conditions, she said, have been worsening over the past few years.

“There hasn’t been money for maintenance, for replacement of furniture or appliances," Favreau said. "At one point, the toilet was leaking, and the guys had to stand in water to use the toilet."

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont praised the deal in a statement.

“I applaud the workforce and their private provider employers for working together to reach agreements on wages and benefits," Lamont said. "With the assistance of funding provided by the recently enacted bipartisan budget for fiscal years 2024 and 2025, these labor agreements will support wage increases that will help with recruitment and retention of essential staff."

The budget will direct assistance to providers and grant opportunities to support infrastructure improvements to help improve group home care, Lamont said.

In a statement, the union said "these long-term caregivers will continue to fight for a pathway to $25/hr minimum wage, affordable healthcare, and funding for retirement after decades of service."

This story has been updated. Connecticut Public Radio's Patrick Skahill contributed to this report.

Matt Dwyer is an editor, reporter and midday host for Connecticut Public's news department. He produces local news during All Things Considered.

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