Child care union bill moves to House
By DAVE GRAM
The Associated Press | March 01,2014
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Senate on Friday passed and sent to the House a bill that would allow many child care providers in the state to unionize to negotiate rates and working conditions with the state.
The 20-7 vote came after more than four hours of debate over two days on a measure that has support among House members and Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Those eligible to join a union would be operators of smaller, usually home-based day care centers serving children whose parents get state subsidies for day care.
The union could negotiate with the state over the size of those subsidies and over training and other professional development opportunities for the child care providers. Larger centers, like those operated by the YMCA and Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, would be exempt.
“This bill is not about unions. It’s about having high-quality child care workers and good places for our children to be,” said Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, who said she had worked in a child care center years ago. “It’s a hard way to make a buck, I can tell you that.”
The bill has been pushed hard by the American Federation of Teachers, a national union that represents some Vermont college and university employees and some of the state’s nurses. AFT is expected to try to organize the child care providers, but Senate backers said unionization would not be a sure thing; the providers would merely have the choice to join one.
Prospects for the bill look bright when lawmakers return March 11 from their weeklong Town Meeting Day break. The House has passed similar legislation before, and Shumlin said again Thursday that he supports the bill.
Debate in the Senate was acrimonious at times, with opponents saying unionization would hurt typically low-paid child care providers by adding union dues to their expenses.
They also questioned why small day care operators would enjoy collective bargaining and union protections while their employees would not.
“This is a very dangerous road that we’re starting to go down because now we are actually going to unionize a business,” Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland, said in an interview.
“Landlords in the state who receive subsidized rent — why couldn’t an argument be made that they should be unionized?” he asked. The same could apply to doctors “because they receive Medicaid payments.”