A small group of independent child care workers has dealt a blow to the American Federation of Teachers.
An anti-labor group, Vermonters for the Independence of Childcare Providers, rallied child care providers against the unionization effort, and the AFT lost a bid to unionize child care workers in Vermont by 20 votes Tuesday.
The vote was 398 for, 418 against unionization. The Vermont Labor Board counted 816 valid ballots cast by mail. The results are not official for 10 days; during that period parties can contest the results. In all, 1,323 child care providers were eligible to vote, according to Tim Noonan, executive director of the board. About 800 providers run registered child care services, while about 500 are legally exempt from state registration requirements.
Kay Curtis of Happy Hands in Brattleboro who helped to lead the AFT’s effort in Vermont said the union is not done fighting. “We will continue working together for each other and for the families we serve,” Curtis said.
Elsa Bosma, a child care provider in Shelburne and the prime mover behind Vermonters for the Independence of Childcare Providers, said she was thrilled with the outcome. Bosma received $2,000 from an anonymous donor this summer and used the money to urge child care workers to vote against the bill. She used Facebook, robocalls and mailings to reach her colleagues, and especially worked hard to motivate legally exempt child care providers (family members and neighbors who provide services) to vote.
“We got what we wanted, which is we don’t want to be micromanaged,” Bosma said. She was worried about that the unionization would have a profound impact on the cost of running her business. “We’re all small businesses, we’re not employees. The child care union would have made us employees.”
Bosma said child care providers had been “bombarded” with literature and calls from the AFT, but she said “everyone I spoke to had no idea what the union was for.”
The AFT spent four years lobbying for legislation to pave the way for unionization. The law passed this year.
The union wants to negotiate higher state subsidy rates for child care.
Subsidy rates for child care providers have not kept pace with cost of living increases and have stalled at 2008 levels, according to Reeva Murphy, who runs the program for the Department for Children and Families.
Bringing subsidies up to 2012 levels would cost $9.6 million, according to an estimate from the Vermont Joint Fiscal Office.
Bosma objects to the idea that nonunionized child care workers would be asked to pay fees and dues to support the AFT under the state’s fair share law.
The state’s home care workers employed by individuals and families formed a union last year. Home care providers can now negotiate hourly rates with the state.
CORRECTION: Home care workers negotiate hourly rates with the state, not subsidies as originally reported.