One of two labor unions competing to represent Vermont’s 7,000 home care workers has withdrawn from the election.
An organizer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) said it’s bowing out in order to avoid a bitter dispute between two labor allies.
SEIU and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, known as AFSCME, worked together in the Statehouse to win the right to organize the homecare workers. But they were then prepared to face off in a hard-fought, door-to-door election campaign to win votes.
But SEIU organizer Matthew MacDonald said his union is dropping out because the rivalry threatened to get too divisive.
“Having a big fight that could potentially get very negative here in Vermont over a unit of 7,000 home care workers in Vermont was not in the best interest of our union or really in the best interest of building the labor movement here in Vermont,” he said.
MacDonald says SEIU was at a disadvantage in the contest because AFSCME already has a strong presence in the state through its representation of some government employees.
“And the fact we don’t have members here in Vermont to introduce ourselves to Vermonters, we had to introduce our track record in other states and talk about what we’ve done nationally,” he said. “And we had concluded that the majority of homecare workers in Vermont seem to respond better to what kind of accomplishments do you have locally here in Vermont.”
The decision to withdraw leaves the field clear for AFSCME. State director Carolyn Klinglesmith applauded SEIU’s decision.
“Providers wanted to be represented by a union that had the history and the experience here in Vermont. So I think a lot of the support really comes from that,” she said.
Ballots will go out to the workers on Sept. 9 and must be postmarked by Sept. 27. Kinglesmith said if a majority votes to join the union, the next step is to negotiate a contract with the state.
“We’re really ready to get to the bargaining table, getting through this election in a timely manner and allowing the providers to get to the bargaining table with the state and start talking about real improvements to the program,” she said.
The bill passed by the Legislature designates the home care providers as state employees for the purpose of collective bargaining.