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Vermont Home Care Contract ‘Will Change Our Lives'

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By Kevin Hanes Organizing Labor Movement
Vermont Home Care Contract ‘Will Change Our Lives'
Homecare provider Mary Warren speaks at the signing.

Burlington, VT – AFSCME President Lee Saunders and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin last week signed an historic first contract for the state’s homecare workers’ union, AFSCME Local 4802, Council 93, representing significant advances in standards for homecare providers in Vermont.

“The contract that’s being signed today will have an immediate impact on families,” President Saunders told workers and allies at the signing. “It not only enables the homecare workers to have better, more secure lives. The contract also underscores the value of solidarity and of coming together through a union to have a voice.”

“This is a new day for homecare in Vermont,” said Governor Shumlin. “These hard working women and men provide vital services to some of Vermont’s most vulnerable residents. This contract gives a voice to these providers and respects their work with a fair wage and protections to allow them to focus on the important work they provide across the Green Mountain State.”

The contract allowed for a new floor for homecare workers of $10.80 an hour and a 2.5 percent raise for those currently making over that amount. This represented a 49 percent increase for the lowest paid hourly homecare workers. Respite providers currently earning $116 per day will earn $150 per day, nearly a 30 percent increase over current daily minimums and a 2.5 percent raise for those currently earning above that rate.

“The state minimum wage does not apply to homecare workers in Vermont so some providers will move from $7.25 an hour to $10.80 on July 1st,” said Mary Warren, an Orange County homecare provider. “This contract will change our lives.”

During the 2013 session, Vermont lawmakers passed legislation allowing for homecare workers to form a union. Following months of organizing, Vermont Homecare United, AFSCME Local 4802, became the exclusive bargaining representative for homecare workers in the state.

“AFSCME has been providing high-quality union representation to Vermont workers for more than 50 years,” said Frank Moroney, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 93. “With this first contract, we have laid the groundwork for a brighter and more secure future for the newest members of the AFSCME family. “ 

Meanwhile, more than 100 workers and community activists attended a public forum at City Hall to discuss low wages, high turnover and unsafe working conditions at HowardCenter that adversely impact patient care. Led off by AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders, a panel of workers discussed a wide range of challenges faced by workers represented by AFSCME Local 1674, Council 93.

“What’s happening at the HowardCenter underscores why unions exist,” President Saunders said. “Workers come together to organize unions so they can stand in solidarity and have a voice on the job. But HowardCenter would rather silence the workers’ voices and deny their rights.”

Following an intense lobby effort by the local and council, Gov. Shumlin signed legislation that funded and mandated a modest 3 percent pay increase for direct care workers. However, the Howard Center has refused to provide the workers with the increase, forcing the union to file suit against the organization in state court.