Home care consumers and workers gathered in Hartford on March 29th to celebrate the formation of CT Home Care United, the first-ever union for Connecticut’s in-home care providers, a new division of the state’s largest union of health care workers, District 1199, SEIU.
By a margin of 3 to 1, home care workers made it clear that they want a voice at work and a seat at the decision-making table for their programs.
Consumers also heralded the victory as one step toward more stable, reliable care. “As a consumer of home care services for over 25 years, I’ve seen how the lack of stability and benefits for the work force affects consumers,” said Mary-Kay Webster of Newington. “My ability to remain in the community depends on this work being attractive so people are willing to stay in these jobs. Today’s vote means that we can come together with one voice as workers and consumers to improve and refine programs like mine, so they can continue to exist.”
The vote (1228 to 365), completed by mail-in secret ballot, is just one step on workers’ journey toward a voice for quality jobs and quality care. Though almost all American workers have the right under federal law to vote to form a union and bargain a contract if a majority desires, home care workers have faced years of political hurdles to get to this point and still lack the right to bargain a contract.
“I think it’s only fair that we have the same rights that millions of other workers have, but the right to bargain collectively has been denied us,” said Jennifer Brown, of Windsor, a provider of direct support services, “Forming our union was an important step, but we’re not there yet. We need to make sure that the state values the work we do by making us partners with a voice in our state’s home care system, and that means giving us the right to bargain a contract.”
Now we need to stand together to make sure our representatives know it’s time we have collective bargaining rights, just like millions of other American workers. In the next few weeks, we will be making our voices heard in our Statehouse. Stay tuned for specific updates on how you can get involved or call (860) 549-1199 right now.
Very shortly, home care workers & Personal Care Assistants (PCAs) in Connecticut will vote to decide if we want a stronger voice to advocate for ourselves and our consumers.
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Big news! Personal care attendants in Connecticut have asked the state to hold an election so we can vote to form our union. We are now ready to choose a union to advocate for our consumers and our families.
It’s My Choice: I Choose a Voice
Now is our chance to have a say in our wages, benefits, working conditions and better hours for our consumers. Are you ready to choose a better life for yourself, your family and the people in our care?
“More than anything, we need a voice,” said Sandra Prince, a personal care attendant from Hartford, CT. “I feel very blessed because I love my job, but I still need someone to look out for me. Who do I ask for a raise? Who will care for Patricia if I get sick or need a day off? Who do I talk to about getting health insurance? Right now, there is no one for me to talk to about that. I’m making a choice to join the union because I want us to have a voice. Without that, we will never get the respect we deserve for the work we do.”
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New Haven resident Caldwell Johnson hires PCAs through an agency for assist him with everyday things, including help getting out of bed, showering, getting dressed and cleaning his home.
He needs at least eight hours a day of services to live an independent life at home, but is unable to find PCAs to work more than two to four hours at a time because Connecticut state funding does not cover more hours than that.
The result is there is a lot of turnover in caregivers. And if a PCA ever gets sick, there’s frequently no back-up provider available to step in.
Johnson thinks PCAs should have health insurance and more stability in their jobs.
“If we can get this union going, that would help us and help them,” he said.
Connecticut resident Dawn Luciano has said she’d love to work as a PCA full-time, but for now only does it on the side.
“It just didn’t pay enough, so I just couldn’t do it,” she said.
Luciano works full-time as a financial sales representative, a job she said she needs for the health insurance and pay.
She thinks having bargaining rights would allow more PCAs to work full-time and work more consistently for the same people.
Luciano also believes the people who use PCAs will benefit from not having to use multiple aides, as well as not having to struggle to replace them as often. “They really have an opportunity to get a lot out of it,” she says of the benefit of a union for consumers.