A handful of home care workers gathered outside the governor’s residence in Hartford Tuesday to deliver some donuts and ask Gov. Ned Lamont to walk a day in their shoes.
The home care workers who are unionized through SEIU District 1199 have been negotiating with the state since June calling for better wages and health care benefits. At the moment they have no health insurance and make $16.25 an hour.
Brenda Glazier, who cares for a man with a traumatic brain injury, said her house is in foreclosure and over the past year she’s had to work through COVID-19 because she had no sick days.
“We’re caring for people who have health insurance and we don’t,” Glazier said.
She said if they get sick they can’t take time off because they don’t get paid.
The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment regarding the protest. They instead referred to a statement about a deal the state struck with state employees regarding health and pension benefits.
“I worked straight through COVID with COVID,” Glazier said.
She said she wants the governor to take a walk one day her shoes.
“We’re essential workers but you don’t make us feel like essential workers,” Glazier said.
She said she loves her job because she loves to take care of people but she can’t help people if she can’t help herself.
Diedre Murch, vice president and director of home care for the New England Heath Care Employees Union, SEIU 1199, said a recent survey found 37% of their members are on food stamps.
“Close to 20% have medical debt close to $1,000 that’s unpaid,” Murch said.
She said by giving them a pay increase and health insurance would save the state money because fewer would qualify for these government subsidies.
Last month 20 homecare workers were arrested by Hartford Police to call attention to the lack of a contract.
The union wants the 10,000 home care workers paid through state Medicaid funding to receive $20 an hour, paid sick time, health care and a path to retirement much like the contracts that were approved for group home and nursing home workers.
The union officials said the state received $240 million for community-based care programs through the American Rescue Plan Act that can be used to bolster wages and benefits for home care workers who are struggling. Their contract ran out on June 30, 2021 but negotiations have been spotty since then, union officials said.
But since federal funding for COVID-19 sick days for PCAs ran out at the end of September, anyone who takes time off to recover from the virus doesn’t get paid, union officials said.
The home care workers, who work in homes of elderly or disabled residents, can’t go on strike for better benefits or wages due to the nature of their work. But they’ve been hit hard by the pandemic and have struggled to pay the bills.