Breaking News
More () »

1,700 group home and day program workers strike, demand more funding

Six agencies with locations across the state are being impacted by the strike, as workers call for an additional $400 million in the budget.

HARTFORD, Conn. — More than 1,700 group home and day program workers from across Connecticut are striking Wednesday, demanding more funding in the state budget that would allow for raises.

Six agencies with locations across the state are being impacted by the strike, as workers call for an additional $400 million in the budget to support group homes and day programs that care for people with disabilities.

The agencies impacted are Oak Hill, Mosaic, Whole Life, Network, Caring Community, and Alternative Services, Inc.

The salaries and other benefits for these workers come from Medicaid funding.

“Nobody don’t want to come and work for $17.25 because it really is a lot we have to do,” said direct support staff worker Jennifer Brown.

The strike’s organizing union – SEIU 1199NE – argues that the additional $400 million in funding would allow a pathway to a $25 per hour minimum wage, access to affordable healthcare, and a pension that allows workers to retire after decades of service.

“The state actually only has to come up with half of that money. The state puts in a dollar, the federal government gives a dollar match," said Rob Baril, President of the New England Health Care Employees Union, SEIU 1199NE. "We’ve heard a lot of noise about the spending cap. What we have not heard is that the state is going to take up its affirmative responsibility to help lift people out of poverty."

Barry Simon, Oak Hill president and CEO, was among those on the picket line Wednesday morning. He said his salary ultimately comes from the state.

“I’ve been at this for 32 years and for 32 years, our industry has been underfunded. We are state-funded. We are rate takers. The state sets our rate,” he said.

Sign up for the FOX61 newsletters: Morning Forecast, Morning Headlines, Evening Headlines

Sandra Caceres, with Alternative Services, Inc., asked for “mercy” for the employees.

“Give us something that we can live with, something that we will be able to look after our families and look after our individuals without feeling like we are splitting ourselves in the middle,” she said.

A spokesperson from the state Department of Developmental Services said the agency along with the Department of Public Health will be conducting residential site monitoring at the providers impacted by the strike.

“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 spokesperson said in a statement.

“Having to move about 30 people from homes some have lived in for as long as 30 years can be devastating to their health and overall well-being,” said Andrea Ferrucci, Mosaic vice president of operations. “But we have no other way to guarantee their safety, as our administrative staff and some employees from other Mosaic locations step in to provide the daily services people need.”

Ferrucci said Mosaic closed 11 homes for the duration of the strike and moved the people into other settings to be able to meet essential needs with far fewer staff available.

Workers said they are prepared to strike for as long as necessary.

Union group home workers on strike include direct support and direct care staff, dietary workers, maintenance staff, program aides, job coaches, assistant managers, assistant program coordinators, residential day program workers, assistant teachers, behavior paraprofessionals and some licensed practical nurses.

SEIU District 1199NE, the New England Health Care Employees Union, represents over 25,000 caregivers in Connecticut and some 4,000 in Rhode Island.

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


Have a story idea or something on your mind you want to share? We want to hear from you! Email us at newstips@fox61.com



Download the FOX61 News APP

iTunes: Click here to download

Google Play: Click here to download

Stream Live on ROKU: Add the channel from the ROKU store or by searching FOX61.

Steam Live on FIRE TV: Search ‘FOX61’ and click ‘Get’ to download.


Before You Leave, Check This Out