Vermont's labor landscape shifted dramatically Thursday as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees won a vote to represent the state's newest and largest collective bargaining unit.
By a decisive margin of 1412 to 566, Vermont's newly empowered home-care workers voted to be represented by the national labor union. The collective bargaining unit was authorized by the legislature last winter and will include roughly 7000 home health workers who provide care for the elderly and disabled.
"It's such an exciting thing because now we know that our programs are going to have a voice," says Amanda Sheppard, a Bridport home-care worker who attended Thursday's vote-count. "We can move away from starvation wages and our clients can get the funding that they need."
Sheppard says she works with a variety of clients, ranging from an autistic child to those in hospice, who generally pay her the state-set wage of $9.97 an hour. She says she hopes AFSCME's first move will be to negotiate higher pay for her and her colleagues.