Courage the victor in two-month strike by Connecticut health care workers
Victory celebration on the picket line after a tough two month strike. | Tom Connolly

HARTFORD. Conn. — Victory! One simple word to describe the mood among striking workers at Sunrise Inc. where workers represented by The New England Healthcare Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU, who after a two-month strike won a contract that puts them ahead.

Sunrise Inc. is a private sector group home agency largely funded by contracts from the state of Connecticut; which increased funding to all private sector agencies by more than $184 million this year but refused to settle a fair contract. After months of negotiations union workers voted to go on strike starting October 1, 2021.

It was a long two months for the workers on the strike line as hopes of a quick victory began to diminish after several days of negotiations early in the strike showed that Sunrise was digging in for a fight. While the days grew shorter and negotiations stalled, the workers braved cold and rainy days to show the boss they weren’t ready to quit.

With picket lines across the state, including in Hartford and New London, the striking workers got creative to keep the pressure on the boss. The creativity included picketing outside of the homes of members board of the board of directors and the homes of the agency directors to attending a church service at the same church as Gov. Lamont — all in an effort to increase the pressure on the state of Connecticut, Sunrise’s largest funder.

A massive public relations campaign was launched by the union including television commercials and billboards along Connecticut’s major highways that helped to get the message out to the public at large. A steady stream of community supporters delivered a seemingly unending supply of food and water and there were visits from elected officials from the state legislature as well as Connecticut’s two sitting Democratic senators, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal.

Highlights of the amazing victory include lower health insurance costs from as much as $6,354 a month to no more than $120.00 a month, a wage increase up to 16% with a wage scale for the first time, an automatic 9.5% employer contribution into workers retirement accounts and Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

In the end, it was the strikers’ persistence and willingness to last one day longer than the boss that allowed them to achieve a lasting victory that will improve not just their lives and the lives of their families but will also help them better the lives of their clients who they care for more than words can say.