by Clyde Weiss | May 02, 2013
Vermont’s home care providers – more than 7,000 women and men – are celebrating House passage this week of groundbreaking legislation giving them the right to collectively bargain with the state over wages and benefits.
The state Senate unanimously approved the legislation in March. Once the bill is signed by Gov. Peter Shumlin, Vermont Homecare United/AFSCME will petition the state labor board to hold an election. More than 4,000 providers have already signed up with the AFSCME home care union, hoping to make their union the voice of all the state’s providers.
By joining Vermont Homecare United/AFSCME, the providers will be able to step up with a united voice to gain greater dignity on the job and to seek improvements in the critical services they provide.
“Homecare workers like myself work every day to ensure our clients live their lives with independence and dignity,” said Mary Montgomery, a provider from Washington, Vt. Passage of the bill, she added, “is a big step toward ensuring providers like me are given that same dignity in the workplace.”
“As a provider with over 35 years of experience, one day I’m going to need someone to take care of me, and I want them to know the ins and outs of how to care for someone like me,” said Carol Delage of St. Albans, a member of Vermont Homecare United/AFSCME who has lobbied hard and testified on behalf of the bill. “I want to know they are getting paid a fair wage, because if the provider is happy and well-cared for, the consumer is as well.”
Care recipient Denise Hok of Brattleboro, Vt., is also happy that the providers are on their way to having their own union with real strength through collective bargaining. “Because in years past working as a homecare provider in Vermont was not seen as a viable career path, providers that have cared for me have been forced to make the impossible choice between the work they love and providing for their own family,” she said. With final passage of the home care bill, “providers will be treated with the same respect and dignity that I've been shown as a consumer over the last 20 years.”
AFSCME currently represents approximately 125,000 home care providers nationwide, and has ongoing campaigns to represent thousands of other home care providers in nearly a dozen states. Last year, AFSCME members came together in the Green Mountain State to support the efforts of caregivers to form Vermont Homecare United/AFSCME.
Read more about the home care bill here.