• Let child-care workers organize
    April 16,2014
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    I am the president of Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals and have been an active member of our union since we nurses organized in 2002. I am writing in support of S. 316, the bill that would allow child-care and early education providers the right to organize if they so choose.

    S.316 would allow child-care and early educators the right to negotiate with the state about how they get paid to care for children in low-income families. Every child has the right to quality affordable early education and care. Forming a union will help to ensure this right is granted to all Vermont children, and as we know so well in unionized health care, will improve the quality of early education.

    We were given the legal right to organize, and we voted yes for our union because we knew it was critical for our patients that our professional voices were officially at the table. We have made substantial improvements to our working conditions and quality of care at our hospital. Patients regularly tell us how much better things are since we organized. We continue to have strong relationship with our managers, many of whom appreciate that their staff have a strong voice in the work that we all are dedicated to.

    I have no doubt that this will be the case if early educators and child-care providers form a union. Studies show that having a union increases quality and access to early education. The National Women’s Law Center conducted a study in 2010 that shows union representation of the early education work force results in improved services, increased reimbursement rates, and more access to early education for low-income families. For every dollar invested in early education, the state can see a $7 return.

    We chose these professions because we love the work that we do and we are skilled at it. We pursue professional development so that we can continue to improve and contribute positively to the lives of those we serve, and the professional development of others. It’s important that all professionals have a voice in the work they do for their communities. Quality improves when front-line workers are directly involved and have actual power to effect change in their workplace.

    Lastly, in my profession, women make up the majority — similar to early educators. Women make up the majority of those who care for our children, our elders, and our infirm — and yet without a legally recognized union and collective bargaining right, our voices are often silenced or pushed aside.

    It has been a long four years waiting for early child-care providers to have the right to form a union. I would like to express my gratitude to the Vermont Senate for passing S.316, and it is my fervent hope that the Vermont House will do the same. These workers should have the choice. I know that if Vermont gives them the right, all Vermont children will have better access to quality child care.

    Mari Cordes is president of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. She lives in Lincoln.
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