7,000 Vermont Workers to Vote on Union

About 7,000 workers in Vermont will vote on whether to form a union. The so-called “homecare” workers take care of patients who are too sick or too elderly to take care of themselves. They work in the patients’ homes, rather than at nursing homes or other institutions. They are paid by the government. The workers will vote by mail between September 9 and 27.

“I support the union,” Claudia Knutson told the Valley Post. She is a homecare worker in Brattleboro. “We want to have a say in the decisions that affect us. The union will make us feel like a group – like you aren’t just out there by yourself.”

The workers have a web site: www.VtHomeCareUnited.org.

In recent decades, the richest Americans have gotten richer, while the middle class has gotten smaller and the ranks of the poor have swelled. Union workers in the U.S. make about 29 percent more money than non-union workers. That’s around $9,300 a year extra for the average worker who joins a union. For Latino workers, the union advantage is about 50 percent; for black workers, approximately 31 percent. This data is from www.bls.gov.

Millions of workers in the U.S. are union members, including workers at Stop and Shop and UPS. Non-union workers can be fired at any time for no reason. Workers who belong to a union can only be fired for just cause.

More information about unions in the Valley is at:

www.ValleyPost.org/node/134

Karen Hazelton is a homecare worker in Dummerston, Vermont, which borders Brattleboro. “We want a union because we don’t get paid a lot for the work we do,” she told the Valley Post. “Most of us have two jobs because we don’t get paid enough to survive otherwise.” Hazelton hopes the union will help address safety problems. “The lady who I take care of weighs more than I do. I have to get her out of bed and bathe her. It’s easy to get hurt.” Having a second worker to help would be safer, Hazelton said.

Knutson and Hazelton agreed that for most patients homecare is better than living in a nursing home. “Living in a facility is very expensive,” Knutson said. “And it’s more comfortable for them to be in familiar surroundings. They feel more important when they’re in their own homes.”

Knutson said the union will only help the workers if the workers help the union. “If the members aren’t active the union can’t do much,” she said.

Comments

Homecare is a big step in the right direction

My Mom had cancer and chose to stay at home until she transitioned. Home care workers deserve to be honored for their important work. Forming a union is hard work, but it is important work. My hope is that all the HHCWers will empower themselves to participate in this process.

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