After six hours of debate, the Connecticut State Senate passed H.B. 5312 by a vote of 22 to 14. More than 6,000 home care workers, who voted last month to join SEIU District 1199NE, will now be able to bargain for better wages, benefits and have a voice in Connecticut’s home care system.
“Before the General Assembly passed this bill, we didn’t have the same rights that other workers in America have, “ said Belinda Haynes a home care worker from East Hartford. “It’s like people think the work we do isn’t important enough to worry about whether or not we need paychecks we can support our families on or health insurance to take care of ourselves if we get sick or injured. Now we know that our representatives do care about what happens to us, and our consumers. That means a lot to me and the people I care for.”
For months, home care workers and consumers have urged legislators to pass this legislation to not only improve conditions for workers, but also ensure that the home care system that consumers rely on to maintain their independence will be able to continue as the demand for home care services increases.
“This is a great victory for home care workers and consumers,” said Jackie Cyr from Waterbury who depends on 3 personal care attendants to live independently. “I worry all the time about how I’m going to keep good workers. Now that workers have the ability to improve pay, benefits and have a voice in how the system works, we’ll be able to keep great workers in these jobs and recruit new workers as well. It’s a win-win situation for consumers and workers.”
There is a long history of home care workers being excluded from basic labor protections most of us take for granted. The legislation passed in Connecticut is a step in righting that wrong. In a national political environment that has become increasingly hostile to workers, the Connecticut General Assembly boldly decided to stand up for low-wage workers.
President of SEIU, Mary Kay Henry, said, “This is an exciting day for 11,000 Connecticut workers–who do some of the most important yet undervalued work in our society–caring for children, seniors, and people with disabilities. This courageous act of giving low-wage workers a voice in their work will raise the quality of those services so that our whole society benefits.”
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