Child-care workers collective bargaining bill sails through Senate committee

Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, listens in the Senate chamber on opening day. Photo by Roger Crowley/for VTDigger

Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, listens in the Senate chamber on the opening day of the legislative session. Photo by Roger Crowley/for VTDigger

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.

John Herrick

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  • Patrick Cashman

    Wow, they sure are wasting no time on this one.
    Since the fix appears to already be in, how about one small change; make support of the union voluntary. Make it:
    “The bargaining unit may be composed of licensed home child care providers and their employees, registered home child care providers and their employees, and license-exempt child care providers and their employees who explicitly choose the labor organization to be their exclusive representative.”

    It’s a small change that allows choice for providers instead of forcibly unionizing all regardless of their wishes.

  • karen hebert

    OMG!! when will there be common sense in their heads to see this does NOTHING for INDEPENDENTLY OWNED & OPERATED IN HOME REGISTERED CHILDCARE PROVIDERS???? Please stop wasting taxpayers $$$$ & move on & away from this as it will cause so many headaches for ALL in the future!

  • Deb Thayer

    I am so not surprised that this went flying through! But, have to say that this union drive does nothing for “childcare workers” This to me seems to be driven at business owners, registered and licensed childcare providers who receive state subsidy money. I do like the comments by Mr. Cashmen that would make this voluntary and membership available to my employee, instead of just me the small business owner.

    After all this country was built on unions to protect the rights of it’s members……What is this protecting me from? Myself?

  • Donna Aiken

    I agree with Mr. Cashman that the bill needs to be worded that this is “voluntary” not “mandatory”. Why should a registered home provider either have to join or pay a “fair share” fee when the Union does nothing to help us registered home providers. Hey I have a secret for all you who think us registered home providers need a Union for our voice. Last year alone I attended over 106 hours of classes and guess what I did not need the Union or pay the Union to help me find classes. There is multiple ways of class information available for us providers. Also guess what I now have 3 STARS and the Union had no hand in that either. Also I have been a successful home provider for over 5 years with no issues expressing my voice. I have never had a problem voicing my concerns. The Union will only make us registered home providers either increase our rates or go out of business. The bottom line is this should not be mandatory or make us pay any fee if we do not want to join. Why can people not understand that is all we are asking. As a registered home provider I set my own rates. The Union will not give us insurance or make sure we have an income if a family decides to leave our care for what ever reason. I just do not understand why people do not understand that registered home providers are their own boss and set their own rules and rates. You need to review the wording and make this fair across the board. Simply said “voluntary” not “mandatory” or a fair share union fee. Not fair to make people pay for something they do not need! We also have been told that if we do not join we can not accept our subsidy children. So that will force more children out of daycare and on to the already long waiting list for daycare. People will not be able to work because they now have no daycare. We are told the Union fee will be taken out of subsidy checks before providers receive them. These fees in other states have been high so the providers are now losing money. Stop trying to run a registered home providers business.

  • Janette Dumont

    What I just DON’T seem to understand, year after year of fighting this battle, is WHY there isn’t a “choice” to join said union or not. It is abundantly clear, WHY…the union will want the dues of EVERY child care provider across the state, not just the ones that want them interfering in their business. I have successfully run a registered home child care, without a union, for almost a decade. Last year alone I had over 100 training hours, I have gotten 2 Stars and working on a 3rd, gotten a Northern Lights Ladder II certificate and the ONLY person I got any “help” from was my VB3 Mentor guiding me. I cant afford ANY union dues, no matter what they are. I am struggling as it is to keep afloat, and a union will not help that, it will only hurt it. IF and only IF they are able to get subsidy rates increased, and IF the State can find that money to actually pay us, we wont see an extra dime, not one! The parents that use the subsidy system to help defray their costs will. They will have lower co-pays, but my rates remain the same….the rates that I set, that I enforce, within the contract that I created for MY business in MY home…I will never understand why ANY provider believes they need someone to “speak for them” on any issues, I’ve never had a problem speaking up for myself. They cant magically make my income higher, and they cant magically make more professional development opportunities appear…and frankly, there are already an abundance of those to begin with. So I again beg and plead with our legislators, that IF they truly believe that us providers, who work for ourselves, in our own homes, need the “right to a union”, PLEASE give me MY rights to NOT have a union too. Make this union debate VERY simple…Those that want to be in a union, can, those that don’t want to, don’t. No one is FORCED to pay a dime if they choose not to, and those that don’t, can continue to run their child cares, the way they always have. As someone said above, it was worded that if we DIDN’T join the union we wouldn’t be able to care for subsidy families. So tell me, WHO does that help? Providers will lose income, and Families will lose their child care….WHERE does this Union “improve” anything? Because since this debate began, NO one has been able to give me a shred of proof that it would benefit me, or my families one bit. I don’t know how much longer I can fight. I’m tired! Tired of defending myself, and other providers that just want to remain independent from any union. It appears that NO one listens to us though! The Union has money to fight, I don’t.

  • Donna Aiken

    You are exactly correct in your statement Tim Smith. So I guess Mr. McCormack is saying it is ok to force people to join the Union or have to pay a fair share union fee even if they do not want to. Another way of them trying to be in control of everyone!

  • Tracy Weeks

    This bill seems to be a waste of time. Why is the State getting involved in this? Seems to me they are trying to control people, not help them. The comment about “Those people, mostly women” makes it sound like they are doing women a favor because they are weak and can’ t stand up for themselves or run a business. What a joke. Have we gone back in time or something?

    I thought Vermont in history has been anti-union for the most part. The reason being we are a “work at will”, or “free will” state. Meaning you can be fired or you can quit with no explanation. So, again, how is this bill going to help self-employed day care providers? Doesn’t seem like it will do anything for them at all except cost them more money to be forced to be a part of a union they don’t need. This is turn will get passed on to the families paying for day care. They don’t need this either.

    All unions do is take your money and give nothing in return, especially in this case. Vermont government, listen to the people who vote for you. VOTE NO on this bill.

  • Larry Brooks

    Have Senators considered how the US Supreme Court’s pending decision in Harris v. Quinn might impact VT’s childcare unionization bill? Central issue is whether an individual can be forced to join a union.

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