After Narrow Loss, Pro-Union Child Care Workers Object To Vote Count

Jan 7, 2015

Child care providers who voted for joining a union narrowly lost that election last month, but many of them believe they would have won if all the ballots had been counted.

Union supporters quickly filed an objection with the state Labor Relations Board that tallied the votes. But the board insists the election was fair.

About 1,300 home-based child care providers were eligible to vote by mail for or against joining the American Federation of Teachers. Eight hundred sixteen ballots were counted by hand on Dec. 9 by members of the state’s Labor Relations Board in Montpelier. A razor-thin margin decided the issue: 418 votes against the union, and 398 votes for it.

Union poll watchers heard election workers read the names of voters as envelopes were opened. But Ben Johnson, president of AFT Vermont, says the board’s official roster does not include scores of voters who later claimed they mailed in ballots on time.

“And so we sent in affidavits from over a hundred of those folks who said, 'Yes, I voted in this election and I took my ballot and put it in the mailbox and mailed it in and it never turned up on the other side.’”Johnson said.

"We sent in affidavits from over a hundred of those folks who said, 'Yes, I voted in this election and I took my ballot and put it in the mailbox and mailed it in and it never turned up on the other side.'" - Ben Johnson, president of AFT Vermont

The union says it kept its own list of voters and that 219 of them did not turn up on the board's official roster of ballots cast. The complaint also alleges that security in the board’s offices was lax.  

In rejecting AFT’s appeal, Vermont's Labor Relations Board defends its security measures. Its ruling does not address the question of the allegedly missing ballots. But the board says the affidavits from voters who said they were not counted missed the deadline for filing an objection. Union leader Johnson says that shouldn’t matter because the complaint itself was filed on time.

“We filed that objection within a few days of the ballot counting. Now subsequent to that, we filed additional documentation in the form of a hundred or so affidavits that were notarized from child care providers who voted in the election but whose votes didn’t count. We turned in that documentation subsequent to the objection,” Johnson said.

That was too late, says the Labor Relations Board. The Board declined to comment on the union's complaint. But its written decision concludes that the affidavits, even if they had arrived on time, do not show that the board was responsible for the allegedly missing ballots.

AFT leaders could appeal this decision to the Vermont Supreme Court, but they say that is unlikely. Instead, many vow to keep working toward forming a union. But since child care providers are deeply divided over this issue, it may not be easy to bring it back up for a vote.