After two years of organizing, more than 7,000 independent home care providers in Vermont have voted overwhelmingly to be represented by AFSCME Vermont Homecare United in negotiations with the state of Vermont. The vote, which concluded yesterday, marks a major milestone in the fight for home health care workers and is the largest organizing win in Vermont’s history. Out of the 7,500 eligible home care providers, 71% voted for AFSCME.
“I’m so excited! It makes the hard work worthwhile. I walked through ice and snow to talk with other home care providers like me because I want AFSCME Vermont Homecare United behind us to improve our jobs so we can give the best to those we care for,” said home care provider Janelle Blake. “Now we can start building our union and get our contract.”
AFSCME President Lee Saunders was among the first to congratulate the home care providers who helped secure the win. “The home care providers of AFSCME Vermont Homecare United worked tirelessly to win collective bargaining rights in the Green Mountain State,” Saunders said. “Many spent countless hours meeting personally with other providers to explain why it was so important for them to have a voice on the job through AFSCME. At kitchen tables, on front porches, at picnics and even in the grocery store, these home care providers showed their fellow providers how coming together through AFSCME brings them one step closer to better pay and benefits, overtime protections and training opportunities.”
It is a victory not only for the workers, but for the patients they care for. In many instances, the only reason that a senior can stay in her home is because of the assistance of a home health aide, who provide assistance with activities such as bathing, dressing, feeding and administering medication. Home health aides represent one of the greatest long-term needs in health care and is one of the most demanding jobs available in the industry. The work is physically demanding and requires long and extended hours, yet the average home health care worker takes home just slightly more than $21,000 a year, making it hard to retain talented workers.