A bill allowing home-based child-care providers to unionize passed its first committee vote on the Legislature’s opening day.
The proposal to offer early educators collective bargaining rights, previously shot down in committee and stalled in the Senate, unanimously passed a Senate Education Committee vote Tuesday.
A similar effort was first stalled in 2011 by large child-care centers, including the YMCA and the Burlington Boys and Girls Club. The current bill only applies to home-based child-care providers, not centers.
Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, who chairs the Education Committee, said early education unionization, one of his top priorities this year, has the votes to pass the Senate.
“It’s a good bill, it creates a good policy. Collective bargaining in a fundamental human right and these people – overwhelming woman, though not all – who do this important work ought to have the power that comes with the union,” he said. “This is the moment when it will come to the full Senate on its merits.”
McCormack said the legislation has never had a clean up or down vote and has been previously buckled under procedural scrutiny.
Last year, the bill, which was tacked on to a miscellaneous education bill, stalled in the Senate after Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland, who chairs the Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee, questioned whether the collective bargaining provision was germane to the underlying education bill.
The bill is heading for Senate Appropriations Committee. It is likely to hit the floor sometime in the next week, said Committee Vice Chair Don Collins, D-Franklin.
Last month, Vermont received a $37 million federal Early Learning Race to the Top grant to support early education programs for low-income and high-needs children. Collins said this money is an opportunity to make some changes to early education and child care.
“I think with money like that and the early education bill that’s over in Senate [Appropriations Committee] that we passed here last year, I think there’s a concerted effort to kind of bring everybody together to improve the quality of early care and education.“
Last year, the Legislature granted collective bargaining rights to home care workers and passed a “fair share” bill, which requires some education, state and municipal employees who opt not to join a union to pay fees to the union.
The bill is backed by the Vermont Early Educators United, an affiliate of the local American Federation of Teachers.