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Workers’ union agrees on tentative contract with Sunrise Northeast

The New England Health Care Employees Union announced Wednesday that it’s agreed on a new contract for group home workers at Sunrise Northeast.

“This agreement, once ratified by the membership, will end the members’ two month strike,” a news release from the union, District 1199, SEIU, reads. “The Tentative Agreement establishes industry leading standards for wage increases, affordable (health care) and retirement. The tentative agreement is retroactive to July 1, 2021 and will expire in March of 2023.” The strike began Oct. 12.

Jesse Martin, a union spokesperson, said the contract would be ratified within the next 48 hours.

Sunrise did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other companies that own group homes also have come to agreements with the union in recent months.

“We see this agreement as an enormous step forward in the fight for economic and racial justice,” Stephanie Deceus, vice president of District 1199, said in the release.

Last week, unionized group home employees working for Sunrise rallied in Hartford, decrying the company for threatening to replace striking workers and for not signing a contract with the union. Workers, union leaders and politicians gathered in front of Sunrise Northeast in Hartford, expressing their outrage and disappointment about Sunrise’s treatment of workers and handling of contract negotiations.

Now, several days into the eighth week of the strike, both sides have found a deal they can live with.

“Last night we reached a tentative agreement with Sunrise,” Charmayne Brown, who has worked with Sunrise for 14 years, said in the release Wednesday. “With this contract we have achieved historic wage increases, real affordable (health care) and a retirement with dignity. My coworkers and I look forward to getting back to our clients whom we love and miss.”

At last week’s rally, workers from both New London and Hartford took turns addressing the crowd, making an emotional appeal to Sunrise to allow them to take care of their families as well as their patients. Many said they wanted to get back to work.

In June, the state allocated $184 million for wage and benefit increases for group home workers; providers needed to submit requests to the state to access the employee benefit pool but wage increases didn't require an application. Money from the pool will supplement what Sunrise is offering.

s.spinella@theday.com

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