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Striking Connecticut group home workers say they are being threatened with replacement

SEIU 1199 union members rally in front of Sunrise Group headquarters in Connecticut.
Image courtesy SEIU 1199
SEIU 1199 union members rally in front of Sunrise Group headquarters in Connecticut.

Group home workers in Connecticut who have been on strike for nearly two months said Thursday that owner Sunrise Group has threatened to permanently replace them as they continue to seek a new contract with better wages and health care benefits.

Unionized workers rallied outside Sunrise's group home in Hartford with state legislative leaders and representatives of Connecticut U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.

About 150 members of the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU, who work at Sunrise’s 28 group homes for people with disabilities in Connecticut have been on strike since Oct. 12.

Messages seeking comment were sent to Sunrise and a lawyer who represents the company, based in Miami, Florida.

Union officials said a Sunrise lawyer notified them Wednesday that the company plans to hire permanent replacement workers.

“What Sunrise is doing or attempting to do is completely unconscionable," said New Haven Democrat Martin Looney, president pro tem of the state Senate.

Workers said Sunrise has not sought any of the $184 million the state has made available to group homes across the state to improve contracts and avoid strikes.

Sunrise workers said they're making less than $18 an hour, the company's family health insurance plan can cost $6,000 a month and they have no pensions.

Annastacya Heyliger, who has worked at Sunrise's Hartford group home for five years, said at the rally that she can't afford the health insurance plan. She said she caught the coronavirus at work and couldn't go to a doctor because she has no insurance.

“All I’m asking for is that I can love my daughter and take care of my family with a livable wage,” she said.

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