Home-based child care workers took a step closer to becoming unionized on Friday after a state law was passed allowing them to do so.
Organizers on Friday filed a petition with the Vermont Labor Relations Board for recognition as the Vermont Early Educators United, American Federation of Teachers. Having union representation would allow them to negotiate with the state over subsidies for low-income families sending their children to the homes.
Continue Reading Below
The Labor Relations Board will notify the roughly 1,600 home-based child care workers, who will then vote on whether they want to unionize. Fifty-one percent must approve the union for it to happen.
Organizers needed signatures from at least a third of them for their petition on Friday.
"We're just thrilled that after five years we'll finally have the opportunity to vote yes," said Kay Curtis, who runs a licensed home program in Brattleboro. "It took five years to get the legislation in place so that we could do that."
Not only will it allow them to negotiate with the state over the subsidies but it also gives their profession respect from other groups and a seat at the table when decisions are being made on issues related to their industry, she said.
Larger child care centers, like those operated by the YMCA and Boys' and Girls' Clubs, would be exempt.
Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the legislation in June. The state will be sent a letter asking for a list of child care employees and has 15 days to respond to the petition once it's received. It could decide to voluntarily recognize the union.
Organizers expect the entire process to take up to a couple of months.
"We have started the process which will prove that the majority of providers want to come together and negotiate," said Emily Creighton-Pryer, a registered home provider in Bradford.