Some child care providers in Vermont may narrowly win the right to collective bargaining over state subsidies for their services. Legislation to that effect squeaked through the House Monday afternoon after long debate, and with only a six-vote margin.

S.316 wouldn't create a collective bargaining unit itself. Rather, it would allow certain child care providers the option of voting on whether they want to organize. The terms up for negotiation would be the value of state subsidies they receive for the children of low-income families they care for.

Rep. Tom Stevens, D-Waterbury, presented the bill to the House chamber Monday. H.316 previously survived hearty debate in the Senate. The House took a preliminary vote Monday to accept the same version without changes.

"The state has a vested interest in retaining as many child care providers as they can," Stevens said.

He noted high turnover among child care staff, many of whom say they do not earn enough money, do not have sufficient access to professional development, and do not have a voice in negotiating their compensation from the state.

The collective bargaining rights would not apply to child care centers, nor to any child care provider who is not registered to accept subsidized payments from the state on their clients' behalf.

Rep. Ronald Hubert, R-Milton, countered that the child care providers in his district made it "abundantly clear that this is an intrusion into their business.

"They have told me they do not want any part of paid agency fees," Hubert said.


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"They do not want to be part of a union. They do not even want to be part of an association. They are truly independent operators."

Hubert and other opponents were outvoted 70-64. If the bill clears another vote in the House, it will be up to Gov. Peter Shumlin to sign.