Families lose out because legislature fails to act. Early educators have been organizing for three and a half years to be able to stand together and negotiate with the state to improve care and education for Vermont’s working families. This year early educators were promised a floor vote in the Senate and, yet again, they were denied a fair vote.
Because the majority of the Senate (and House) would have voted to respect early educators’ right to organize, a minority of lawmakers used procedure to block the vote from occurring.
The majority of the legislature would have voted to support the right to organize. We had their vote because providers and their allies have sent thousands of messages of support and because hundreds of providers have visited the statehouse and had face to face meetings with their legislators. Providers have clearly explained the importance of the work they do and their commitment to quality care and education.
Providers vow to continue organizing—and to winning in the legislature. Early educators made significant progress this year, for the first time passing favorably out of two Senate Committees (Education and Appropriations). There are clear paths forward to winning the bill when the legislature reconvenes in January. Providers have vowed to continue organizing this summer and fall and to come back next year to fight even harder for the right to collectively bargain. Together we can win for Early Educators and Vermont’s families.
Early educators deserve the same rights and respect as nurses, firefighters and independent home health providers.
Senate Education voted out the Miscellaneous Education bill (H.521) with a 4-1 vote on April 26, 2013. The bill includes the right of all home-based early educators to choose to organize and collectively bargain with the state over issues the state controls.
Early educators will be partners with the state in setting policies related to their profession. Similar legislation is in effect in 13 states and has resulted in improved child care policies and a stronger and more stable child care workforce, both of which are critical to the early learning successes and development of Vermont’s young children.
“I have worked in this profession for many years and I know, first hand, how important it is to have a voice in the decision-making process. Today’s vote was an important step forward toward our right to stand together and organize a union—like nurses, firefighters and teachers,” stated Kay Curtis, a home-based provider in Brattleboro. “After three years of hard work, we are finally going to get a fair vote on the Senate floor. We watched the Senate unanimously pass the right for home health providers to organize. We hope the Senate shows early educators the same respect. Our collective voice will be so much more effective than our individual voices in setting policies that affect the children we serve. We work with children and their families every day. We know what we need to make our profession stronger and to better serve our families.”
The vote today affirms the respect for the early educators who have one of the most important jobs in Vermont – caring for and educating our young children. In committee today,
“Three years of hard work paid off tonight for Vermont’s children and families,” stated Sheila Reed, Associate Director of Voices for Vermont’s Children. “We are now one step closer to ensuring that the people who care for our children everyday will have a full voice in developing state child care policies.”
The following is an Op Ed authored by Mari Cordes RN, VA-BC, President, Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals
While most workers in the United States have the right to organize, that has not always been the case. Most private sector employees won the right to organize in the 1930’s, but nurses who worked at non-profit, non-governmental hospitals, such as Fletcher Allen, didn’t have the legal right to organize until 1974. This extension of rights was not without controversy; there were many who claimed that healthcare would fall apart and nurses would leave the profession if they were allowed to have a collective voice. None of that came to fruition.
There are still many who need legislation in order to legally organize. Today I watched the Vermont Senate take a unanimous vote on a bill that would allow home health providers the right to organize. This is an exciting and important step forward for this profession and for the people and families they serve. However, it is very important to recognize that there are thousands of other Vermonters providing equally important services in our communities – the early educators who have been tirelessly working to have that same opportunity… and a small few in the Vermont Senate are denying them that opportunity.
I know firsthand how important it is to have the right to organize and to collectively negotiate. As a nurse at Fletcher Allen and other smaller hospitals and facilities in Vermont, I worked for 14 years without a union. Nurses were underpaid and overworked, morale was extremely low, turnover was astronomical, out of state agency nurses had to be hired – all of which negatively affected the quality of care. Through the union, we won substantial wage increases and, more importantly, a substantial increase in the number of nurses and a significantly better nurse-patient ratio. Our collective voice made significant improvements in the quality of care – our patients are safer and receive higher quality care because we have a collective voice.
I recognize the similarities between the challenges we had and those of the child care and home care providers – low wages, inadequate training opportunities, low morale, and very high turnover - and most of the workers in all 3 professions are women. This is especially relevant to the child care provider organizing effort. Because childrearing and child care most often fall on the shoulders of women, policies and decisions concerning child care services are of paramount concern to women. Moms need quality, affordable child care in order to work outside the home, which is essential to the Vermont economy.
Subsidies that providers receive to care for children from lower-income families usually do not come close to covering the provider’s actual costs. Because many families cannot afford co-pays that would allow the providers to be fairly compensated, the providers often forego the co-pays and still serve the families in need of their care. It’s what women historically do – whether nurses or early childhood educators – they take care of the people in their communities, without regard to fair pay or the ability to access continuing education. It is time for these providers to be able to work collectively towards these improvements in the important work they do.
Organized early educators in other states have secured better and more regular compensation, expanded training, and respectful treatment. Unions are contributing to the development of a more stable and better trained workforce, which in turn enables providers to better support the children and families they serve.
Because there are few jobs with greater significance than caring for and educating our children, I sincerely hope that the Senate will stand up for early educators who have been tirelessly coming to the State House for the last three years asking for the same rights the Senate granted unanimously today to home health providers. To deny their request would be confounding and inexplicable.
Over 80 child care providers from around the state came to Montpelier in support of S.52, the bill that will grant child care providers the right to organize. The day began with a welcome from the Governor and the Speaker of the House, followed by comments from Senator McCormack (the bill's lead sponsor), Senator Baruth (Senate Majority Leader), and Commissioner Yacovone of the Department for Children and Families.
Following trainings at the Capitol Plaza Hotel, legislators joined providers for lunch for more intimate conversations about S.52 and child care services in Vermont.
Providers returned to the State House for a warm welcome in the House chamber. By the end of the day, they learned that S.52 was going to be considered in committee the following day. All-in-all, it was an excitement, enlightening, and productive day at the Vermont State House!
S.52 will allow home-based providers to negotiate with the state to improve the quality of child care in Vermont. Center-based child care providers will be able to opt in to negotiate with the state.
“We really need this bill,” says Cathi Ste. Marie, a provider from North Troy. “Early education in Vermont faces an assortment of challenges, such as low wages and high turnover. We need to overcome these challenges to develop a stronger, more stable early education system in Vermont. The state needs our expertise at the table so that Vermont families can access affordable quality child care.”
Last night leaders of Vermont Early Educators United met with former Governor Madeleine Kunin and activist and Main Street Landing CEO Melinda Moulton to share their progress in passing legislation to organize a union. As Kerry Malloy explained, “We are organizing so that early educators will have a real voice in improving access to quality childcare.
Gov. Kunin told providers that the work they do is some of the most important work there is. She urged providers to push your profession forward by working with stakeholders to continue to improve the affordability and quality of child care for all families in Vermont. In her closing remarks, Kunin spoke about women needing to take on more leadership roles, saying, “If you are not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
Kunin’s recent book, “The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family,” makes the case that only through broad based organizing can the U.S. make progress on enlightened family and work policies and the reduction of child poverty.
Melinda Moulton also listened to providers concerns and pledged to stand by them in the legislature and the community as they push forward for the right to organize a union.
VEEU leaders were energized by the event and pledged to continue to organize for themselves, their colleagues, and the families they serve.
Lobby Day 2013
Statehouse and Capitol Plaza
Bring your expertise to the statehouse. Join hundreds of colleagues from around the state for our annual Vermont Early Educators United-AFT Lobby Day at the State Capitol in Montpelier on Thursday, February 14,2013 from 9am-2:30pm. Enjoy lunch at the Capitol Plaza Hotel with your legislators. Registration form is attached below. For more information email email@example.com.
Early educator leaders of Vermont Early Educators United-AFT met with Governor Shumlin at his office in Montpelier on October 24. The meeting was spent discussing our collective expertise and the benefits to Vermont families by having our profession working as equal partners with the State on key decisions.
Sonja Raymond, Director of Appletree Learning Center in Stowe explained, "We are the experts in the field, we need to have a seat at the table."
Governor Shumlin stated that he "absolutely" remained committed to supporting the right of Early Educators to form a union and predicted that there would be fewer obstacles in the legislature this year.
Judy Pransky, Owner of Cherry Street Playcare in St.Johnsbury, let the Governor know that Early Educators will continue to organize in the statehouse and across Vermont for a real voice for the profession.
VEEU POLL FACT SHEET
Vermont Voters Support Bargaining for Early Childhood Educators, Poll Finds
A strong majority of Vermont voters favors allowing early childhood educators to engage in collective bargaining with the state, finds a telephone survey completed by Hart Research Associates, a leading survey research firm that has conducted over 5,000 public opinion surveys.
In a poll conducted among 604 registered voters in Vermont in December 2011, Hart Research found that by 26 percentage points, voters support the bill to allow early childhood educators to engage in collective bargaining with the state on issues that the state controls, such as child care subsidies and professional development (58% favor, 32% unfavorable, 10% unsure). (The margin of error for the survey is + or – 4.1 percentage points.)
The survey found that broad support for the bill exists across the electorate regardless of age, gender or education. Voters in the southern counties of Vermont are particularly supportive (65%). Strong majorities of Democrats (73%) and Independents (59%) support the bill.
Hart Research Associates found that the legislation is popular with voters because it speaks to two important themes in Vermont politics – quality early childhood education and a decent standard of living for all workers.
A strong majority of voters who support the legislation see high quality early childhood as a smart investment in Vermont’s future. It means children begin kindergarten ready to learn and the state saves money down the road. In addition, 69% of voters are convinced that the quality of care and education a child receives is directly related to the adult responsible for the child’s care and education. Voters agree that Vermont must support the profession of early childhood educators in order to raise the standard of quality.
The survey found that making sure that all Vermont children have access to high quality early childhood education and care is important to 83% of voters.
Further, a decent standard of living for all workers is important to Vermont voters. More than nine in 10 (92%) of voters feel that making sure working people in Vermont can earn a decent standard of living is an important goal to them personally. A strong majority of voters who support the legislation are concerned about the low income and lack of benefits experienced by early childhood educators.