Union Delays Strike At 200 Group Homes, Seeks Funding Deal

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The union representing more than 2,000 workers at 200 group homes across Connecticut announced Thursday it will delay a strike planned for Friday after Gov. Ned Lamont's office expressed interest in improving state funding levels for the facilities.

District 1199 New England, SEIU reset the strike date to June 4 at 6 a.m. with the hope that new agreements can be reached on labor contracts that expired with six group home agencies: Oak Hill, Network, Whole Life, Mosaic, Journey Found, and Sunrise, which serve people with physical and intellectual disabilities, mental illness and other needs.

“We look forward to discussions with Governor Lamont about providing a level playing field for workers and their agencies to reach fair contracts," said Rob Baril, the union's president, who called such talks “long overdue” in a statement.

The same union recently reached an agreement with the Democratic governor that includes $267 million in state funds to help pay for historic wage increases for nursing home workers. That led to the postponement of strikes planned last Friday at 26 long-term care facilities. Those strike notices were delayed until June 7. Meanwhile, the possibility of strikes on May 28 are still looming at 13 other nursing homes.

SEIU has argued that both nursing home and group home workers are paid what they consider poverty-level wages and deserve affordable health insurance, better retirement benefits and protections against short staffing.

Community nonprofit agencies, which provide many state-funded social services including group homes, are pressing Lamont to agree to a seven-year proposal supported by legislative Democrats that dedicates $470 million in state and federal COVID-19 relief funding to their programs.

"Past years, and this past year especially, has devastated nonprofits. Funding is nonexistent," said Rod Wilson of Vernon, a board member of Perception Programs, Inc., which helps people with substance abuse issues.

“The services that nonprofits provide is the backbone of helping the consumers,” he said during a recent news conference. “Nonprofits restore our health and wellbeing back to our societies. The funding for nonprofits is equally as important as any funding that is used for the public health emergencies.”