Kara Dwyer, center, and other protestors with healthcare union SEIU 1100NE, ask for better treatment of nursing home, long-term care, home care, group home workers, including health insurance, better wages and proper PPE. Dwyer has three jobs to support herself and her son as a single mother. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

It seems that every current events argument always comes back to money. Too much of it, not enough of it, two different groups fighting over it, etc. This is a perfectly sound argument to be having; without money, no one would be able to accomplish anything or provide their services. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused schools and workplaces to close down, and mask mandates and social distancing regulations to be enforced.

Unemployment rates have skyrocketed, and a need for basic resources has drastically increased, while funding for essential services has dwindled. The pandemic has revealed that our country and our state can’t allocate funds for every industry. Included in this, is the downfall of Connecticut group homes.

By definition, a group home is a residence model of medical care for those with complex health needs. Oftentimes, residents of group homes also include young people who can’t afford to live on their own, or others who have criminal records, addiction problems, and more. Group homes are often overlooked, but the resources they provide for countless groups of people in need is admirable and necessary. However, without the right funds and wages for their employees, group homes can’t provide their essential services to our communities.

Because group home workers have had to suffer with low wages and poor working conditions for so long, many of these employees across the state have threatened to go on strike if nothing improves. This is a sensible reaction; when something has been so wrong for a while, and the normal routes of improving conditions haven’t proved to be fruitful, then taking matters into your own hands and going on strike is better than ignoring the issue and hoping it will go away.

While Gov. Ned Lamont and other members of the state legislature have “pledged a significant increase in state resources to avert a potential strike,” Connecticut  residents and workers have yet to see any real change and commitments being made. The state legislatures’ statements are full of false hope and demonstrate a pattern of disregard for essential workers and the people who inhabit these group homes. Sure, state legislators have said the public that changes will be made to ensure monetary progress, but if the only reason that they’re pushing for extra funding for this industry is because of a potential workers strike, then they’ve proved that they don’t care enough about these homes to fund them when they were first in need.

While some think that strikes and protests are acts of showmanship that perpetuate performative activism, these gatherings have proved to be real agents of change. Strikes garner public support and raise awareness about issues prominent in our community, and with a greater support system, legislators will be more likely to listen to the cause and make necessary changes. Throughout history, protests and strikes have been able to change rigid laws and overturn outdated policies. Without these demonstrations, women wouldn’t have the right to vote, people in the LGBTQIA+ community would not be able to get married, and most recently, there would be no attention brought to the systemic racism in our country.

As a progressive state, Connecticut state legislators should listen to group home workers and help them earn livable wages with affordable and accessible health care, and a steady path to retirement. Group home employees are the backbone of both day-to-day and long-term activity of these vital establishments. Group homes provide essential care and services to people in need, but the employees at these homes also deserve to live healthy and happy lives; those of which are on livable wages. If protesting and going on strike will aid group home workers in receiving the fair compensation and resources they deserve, then they should exercise their First Amendment right to do so. If we work together to promote equitable salaries in these communities, then the care being given to the residents of these homes will greatly increase.

Clara Sorkin is a student at Hall High School in West Hartford.