HARTFORD, Conn. — 1700 group home and day program workers are set to go on strike starting Wednesday morning.
"My job is my lifeline. I love helping people, I’m a caregiver," said Jennifer Brown, a direct support staff.
For 25 years she has worked providing care for people with disabilities. She said she loves what she does but struggles to make ends meet.
"In the last two years, we got a little increase but that increase we don’t see because everything else is rising. Gas is rising. My rent went up $200," Brown said. "You cannot live on one income of $17.25."
She is one of the workers that plans to go on strike. SEIU 1199 members are demanding a pathway to eventually making $25 an hour, affordable healthcare, and funding for retirement.
Workers said the money for that has to come from the state budget.
"The budget was put together it’s a moral document. It’s a moral document that shows how much you think these workers deserve," said Stephanie Deceus, vice president of community programs for SEIU 1199.
The union is asking for an additional $400 million in the budget for Medicaid funding for group home and day programs.
"We are prepared to strike as long as it takes until the state actually puts some money in the funding for us," Deceus said.
Six agencies with locations around the state will be impacted by the strike. Mosaic, Whole Life, Network, Caring Community, Alternative Services Inc. and Oak Hill.
The decision on what the organizations can pay these workers comes from the state.
"We are a rate taker, we are not a rate maker. The state tells us what they’re going to pay for our services and that’s what we take," said Barry Simon, president and CEO of Oak Hill is joining workers in calling for more funding.
He said they are prepared for workers to walk out this week.
"We have temp staff that we’ve hired and are coming in. We have our professional staff, our nurses, our OTs, behaviorists, program managers, program directors, social workers. You know they’re all gonna be in the programs," Simon said.
Kevin Bronson, spokesperson for the Department of Development Services said in a statement:
“Since being notified of a potential strike of 1199 members at some of our provider locations, the Departments of Developmental Services (DDS) and Public Health (DPH) have been working with providers, families, and staff to ensure the health and safety of the individuals we support. These agencies will be conducting residential site monitoring at provider locations to confirm that individuals are receiving the appropriate level of care. All individuals and families impacted by the strike were contacted last week and continue to be made aware of providers’ plans to manage operations. While we cannot comment on the status of current contract negotiations between the union and private providers, we are hopeful this matter will be resolved soon.”
The strike is set to begin at 6 a.m. on Wednesday.
Gaby Molina is a reporter and anchor at FOX61 News. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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