“I love the kids I work with and want to fight for them but I shouldn’t be asked to put my own health – and that of my 4th month old – at risk because I care,” said Kersten Brothers, a Behavior Specialist who earns just $13.25 an hour. “None of us do this job to get rich; all we are asking for is fair compensation and respect for the extra work we are doing during this crisis.“
Frontline caregivers at Groden Center who provide essential services for children with autism filled dozens of cars in an Emergency Caravan on Thursday to call for hazard pay for union workers in congregate settings during the COVID-19 crisis.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the closure of their school, frontline caregivers at the Groden Center have been working with students with autism in congregate care settings who rely on trained staff for a range of basic needs and educational services. The work has become more dangerous, both due to risk of COVID-19 exposure to positive cases among staff and because a reduced number of staff are dealing with more severe behaviors from anxious students.
Management has refused to provide hazard pay to union workers while simultaneously giving it to their non-union colleagues. Additionally, union workers had to gather petition signatures and make phone calls to urge their employer to provide additional compensation made available from the Governor’s recent Workforce Stabilization Loan Program. The majority of the workforce earns below $15 an hour for the critically important, emotionally difficult work they do. School districts continue to fund Groden and the staff are working harder than ever, putting themselves and their families at risk.
Additionally, Groden Center management has not communicated with staff when their coworkers tested positive and took two weeks to deep-clean the group homes after positive COVID-19 cases were identified.