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Organizing Effort in Vermont Inspires Us All

The collective strength of Vermont providers will create change for them and their clients. It gives them a more powerful voice.

By Laura Reyes
Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes
Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes (Photo by John Focht)

For more than a year, home care workers in Vermont have been mobilizing, lobbying and building a union. Their hard work paid off recently when the state finally passed legislation recognizing their right to collective bargaining.

Carol Delage, a volunteer organizer for Vermont Homecare United/AFSCME, says that she and other home care workers organized for the same reason workers around the country organize. “We deserve quality working conditions, good salaries and benefits, dignity and respect for the valuable work we do. With AFSCME, we will get it.”

Create Change

The collective strength of Vermont providers will create change for them and their clients. It gives them a more powerful voice as they work to protect funding during these difficult times. Just as importantly, these new union members will add to the collective voice of AFSCME in all our battles to make sure that the middle class survives in the United States. 

Home-bound seniors and people living with disabilities need our help and support to keep the funding that allows them to continue living independently at home. To fight for that funding, we need a strong voice in our local communities and on Capitol Hill. 

That’s why Vermont’s home care workers have been spending long hours criss-crossing their state and contacting their colleagues. “We’re fighting for funding for the people we work with and we›re getting results,” says Janelle Blake, another volunteer organizer in Vermont. “Being with a union will give us the added power we need when we are fighting funding cuts in the Legislature.”

AFSCME members from across the country understand the importance of building strong unions to represent those who provide public services. That’s why volunteer member organizers traveled to the Green Mountain state during the current campaign. They came to pitch in and help build our union.

Mary Jones was one of them. A home care worker from Pennsylvania, she spent a week organizing in Vermont. “What’s happening to home care workers in Vermont is similar to what we went through,” she says.

AFSCME represents approximately 125,000 home care providers nationwide. More than 90 percent of home care workers are women. And even though many work as much as 70 hours a week, the pay is less than $10 an hour with no overtime. That’s just wrong. Thanks to the hard work of members who are helping in Vermont, we are fighting to lift those workers up.

Passionate Commitment 

Home care workers have a passionate commitment to the people they serve. As a home care provider in California, I saw how effective we became when we joined together to fight for dignity and respect on the job. That’s why I am inspired by the organizing done by home care providers in Vermont.

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