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Union health care workers strike for second day over wages, benefits

A crowd of group home workers and day program workers gathered outside the Hartford Sunrise facility, chanting things like "No contract. No peace."

HARTFORD, Conn. — Union health care workers in several towns across the state are on strike for another day after failing to reach an agreement over wages and benefits with their employer, Sunrise Inc.

The organization operates group home and day programs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

A crowd of workers formed a strike line outside the Hartford Sunrise location for the second day in a row, chanting , "No contract. No peace."

“We haven’t gotten a raise in over 15 years. That’s unacceptable. We risk our lives every day during the pandemic," said Antonia Antico, a Sunrise Direct Support Professional.

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New England Health Care Employees Union SEIU District 1199, the union representing 149 Sunrise employees at 28 group homes and day programs across the state, is now fighting for what they call a fair deal.

“With fair wages, over $17 an hour, with affordable health insurance. Right now, it’s at $6,000 a month for family health insurance in terms of their premiums, and for a pension," said Pedro Zayas, with the New England Health Care Employees Union SEIU District 1199.

RELATED: Wages, health insurance the center of union health care worker strike

Those demands come after Gov. Ned Lamont allocated $184 million in additional funding for group homes and day program workers in Connecticut. However, union officials said that money is not being reflected properly in a contract.

“We would like to get a contract as soon as possible. We’ve been settling contracts with other agencies here real quickly without having to go to a strike," said Zayas.

Sunrise Northeast Executive Director Dawn Frey said the organization is committed to reaching a contract that gives employees wage increases and benefits they deserve.

In a statement to FOX61 Tuesday, Frey wrote: “We submitted requests to the state last week seeking additional funding for healthcare and retirement and are awaiting those decisions. We’ve tentatively agreed to wage increases and remain committed to negotiating.”

RELATED: $184 million agreement struck to avoid looming group home worker strike

The union said they are expected to resume contract negotiations with Sunrise on Thursday at noon.

Before that, strike lines will be out in Hartford, New London, Danielson and Columbia during the morning. At noon, a rally is planned at the Hartford Sunrise location.

Angelo Bavaro is an anchor and reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at abavaro@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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