Vermont has been focusing attention and resources on providing quality early education for our youngsters for over a decade. And although significant progress has been made, more needs to be done to ensure a well-trained and paid workforce, and equitable access for all children.
The legislative debate began in 2003 when several state senators and I co-sponsored S.166 to implement strategies to promote kindergarten readiness and transition to school. Preparing children for school makes all the difference in the world. They learn in those early years how to absorb and use the information to which they will be exposed for the next 12 years.
The best return on investment of precious tax dollars is in the early years of life; lies with prevention and education, not corrections and incarceration later.
A remaining goal of mine is allowing home-based child care providers the right to organize and form a collective bargaining unit. It is the front-line workers who are in the best position to identify and present to policy makers the issues, needs and problems facing workers, children and their families. And if those providers can speak with one voice, they will be able to effectively advocate for the changes and funding necessary to ensure access by all families, regardless of financial need or educational status.
Allowing them to organize will enable them to participate in a meaningful way when policy decisions are being made.
These childcare workers are entrusted with our most precious assets so that parents can work. These workers are primarily women, and the rates paid from the state for the care of our young children are so low that many providers are working for well below a living wage.
S.316 enables -- but does not require -- child care workers to organize. The workers by majority vote will decide whether they want a union. The bill is structured after the bill last year that allowed independent home care workers to organize and negotiate. Home care workers overwhelmingly voted to collectively bargain and today, they are negotiating wages, benefits and work conditions.
In Vermont, we have a long and proud history of supporting workers' rights. In a time when these rights are being threatened and even removed in other states, this legislation confirms our belief that all workers should be treated with dignity and respect, and this includes the right to organize.
S.316, an act relating to child care providers, will be coming up for vote in the Senate in the next several weeks, and it is my hope that we will see a strong vote of support for these workers, our children, and Vermont's future.
Vince Illuzzi is a former state senator representing the Essex/Orleans senate district and the former chair of the Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over most labor related legislation in the Vermont Senate.