Nearly 150 Group Home Workers Go On Strike, Others Settle

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Nearly 150 unionized group home workers went on strike Tuesday, while another 100 have reached an agreement with their employer and called off their threatened walkout.

Employees at Sunrise Inc., which operates 28 group homes for people with disabilities across Connecticut, started forming picket lines at 6 a.m. at four locations in Hartford, Columbia, New London and Danielson.

“Most of these workers are making less than $17 an hour. They have to pay $6,000 in monthly premiums for family health insurance coverage at Sunrise, and no retirement pension to look forward to in their elder years,” said Rob Baril, president of the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU.

In recent weeks, nearly 1,000 union workers have signed new wage and benefit agreements with their group home and day program agencies. Those new contracts rely on more than $184 million in additional state funding provided by Gov. Ned Lamont's administration and have included up to 20% wage increases for workers with the lowest salaries and up to a 90% reduction in health care premiums.

On Monday, 100 employees at Alternative Services of Connecticut or ASI withdrew their strike notices after becoming the latest group of workers to reach a settlement.

The 28 Sunrise homes and day programs serve more than 160 people in Brooklyn, Columbia, Danielson, East Hartford, Glastonbury, Hartford, Hebron, Lebanon, Manchester, Mansfield, New London, New Milford, Old Lyme, Pomfret, Vernon, Waterford and Enfield.

“I’m tired. I’m drained. I’ve been at Sunrise for 24 years. It’s time that they do the right thing. No one at our agency takes insurance because it is not affordable. We haven’t had a pay raise in 15 years,” said Jennifer Brown, a direct-care worker in a statement.

A message was left seeking comment with executive director of Sunrise.