In Vermont, home child care providers have rallied together to fend off unwanted legislation that would allow unions to organize providers in the 2012 and 2013 legislative sessions, despite union intimidation of Vermont elected officials and intense lobbying for the bill.
Unfortunately, unions and their allies in the Vermont legislature are re-introducing Senate Bill 316, which would set the table for the unionization of child care providers.
If passed, a union election would be held and if the child care providers voted for union representation, then organized labor would be their representative and bargain with the state over child care subsidy rates and reimbursements for payments that financially assist child care for low-wage parents.
Unions purport the bill would lead to higher wages and health care for providers. Another union claim is that union representation would enhance the quality of child care and help providers continue their training.
However, a coalition of Vermont child care providers, Vermonters for the Independence of Child Care Professionals, which represents over 250 home care providers across the state, disputes the unions’ claims.
In a recent article at VTDigger.org, Elsa Bosma, owner of a daycare facility and founder of Vermonters for the Independence of Child Care Professionals, listed the child care providers’ objections to the union organizing campaign.
Contrary to union assertions, Bosma states that S. 316 would not improve quality, but would “would undermine our work by failing to encourage higher quality standards for providers. The bill would weaken quality by authorizing a union to bargain over the allocation of reimbursement rates.”
Further she commented, “S.316 will not provide higher wages or health care. In fact for most providers across the state, this bill will result in a net loss in our operating budget.”
Worse, according to Vermonters for the Independence of Child Care Professionals’ website, in the 15 states where child care providers are unionized, less than 5 percent of providers in a union currently have any form of health insurance.
Bosma also disputes that unions bargaining with the state over subsidies is a benefit to child care providers. For one, anything that the state and union negotiated regarding child care providers would need to be funded through the appropriations process, which is never a guarantee.
Compounding possible appropriation difficulties, Bosma notes, “With a union in place, they would also have to come up with additional monies to negotiate with the governing body. We believe this money would be better spent improving the subsidy rates rather than negotiating them.”
In addition, the state would automatically deduct union representation fees from state subsidy checks that patients use to pay providers, whether the care provider voted for the union or not.
Yet what is most disturbing about this bill is that the union would seize the political voice of these small business owners by controlling work conditions and by taking away their seat at the table to influence regulation and subsidies.
[Editor’s note: on 2/26/2014 Vermont Senate Committee voted in favor of S. 316 (5-1)]