Home child care providers who take state subsidies can now form a union, under a law signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday.
About 1,400 child care providers now have the option to join a collective bargaining unit, most likely through the American Federation of Teachers, which has lobbied for the legislation in the Vermont Statehouse for the past four years.
Subsidies for parents who qualify for state support are currently at 2008 levels. It would cost the state about $9 million a year to bring the subsidies to 2012 levels.
Shumlin told a small group of supporters who were assembled at Nan Reed's daycare in Burlington that the bill gives "a voice to the hardworking people, mostly women, who are out there every day, doing the work, giving kids the strong start they deserve."
When asked if the state could afford to pay child care workers more in subsidies, Shumlin told reporters that the state has an "illogical," two-tiered system that rewards teachers in the public school system but treats child care workers as if they are less important. He did not suggest, however, that money from the Education Fund, which pays for schools, should be used to help pay for child care costs.
If child care providers refuse to become part of the union, they may be subject to "agency fees," or mandatory fees for non-members, under state law.