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October 03, 2013

AFSCME Wins Vote to Represent Vermont Home-Care Workers

AFSCMEVermont'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.

While the outcome was significant, Thursday's vote tally was hardly a surprise. AFSCME spent months battling the Service Employees International Union for the right to organize the new bargaining unit, but the latter group dropped out in July after failing to gain traction. Mailed-in ballots counted by the Vermont Labor Relations Board Thursday morning included just two options: yes to AFSCME or no.

"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.

"We'd like a livable wage," she says. 

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