Hundreds of group home workers could strike in spite of state deal

More than 500 group home workers are threatening to walk off the job just months after a deal meant to avoid a strike.
The state set aside $184 million to give group home workers raises and better benefits. But the SEIU 1199 New England union says two agencies, Network Incorporated and Whole Life, aren’t passing that money onto workers.
The agencies are facing a strike from SEIU 1199NE workers on Oct. 5.
Group home workers threatened to walk out this summer, but state lawmakers reached a last-minute deal. Gov. Ned Lamont says owners have the money to pay workers more, and additional state money is not on the table.
"We negotiated a deal. We got additional resources to the group home operators. Now, this is between the workers and the operators,” he said. “Operators have got some extra loot, let's make sure you share it with the workers and do this fairly."
But Network's director Susan Pearson says the state is the problem. She says group homes support giving workers more, but they are still waiting for pension help to match workers' raises. Pearson says they still don’t know how much assistance they’ll get from the Department of Disability Services.
Kevin Mackie, a group home worker at Network says he can't wait much longer.
"I'm working an extra 20 to 30 hours a week just to make a living wage,” he told News 12.
Caught in the middle are the families of loved ones with disabilities. Pearson told News 12 that a strike would be “catastrophic.” She says the labor market is so tight right now, she's not even sure she could find replacement workers.
Right now, some group home workers make less than $15 an hour. The union plans to file strike notices against at least two more group homes later this week.