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Opinion: Early educators merit union rights

Thank you for this opportunity to write in support of the Early Childhood Educators of Vermont. Our state is fortunate to have a network of agencies, homes and private centers that provide care, nurturing and education to the state’s youngest citizens. The persons who work with our children in these settings are mostly women, and though the work they do is arguably the most important work done in our state, they typically are not well-paid, minimum wage being the standard for these jobs.
Consequently it is difficult for many of them to remain in the profession and the turnover rate is high as they leave this invaluable vocation to seek livable compensation elsewhere. These early childhood educators have been struggling for several years now to convince the state Legislature to grant them the right to organize a union.
Why do the early educators feel that they need a union? It is partly because of pay and benefits. Compare early educator pay (about $17,000-$20,000 per year) to the pay of a corrections officer, for example. Average pay for a corrections officer in Vermont is about $45,000 per year (they do have a union). Corrections work is important, no question, and they earn their pay, no doubt. But we propose that the education of preschool children is of equivalent if not greater value.
Just as important for early educators is the need for a voice for their profession in dealing with the state policy makers and the bureaucracy. The licensing and working conditions are matters subject to state guidelines. Because the educators themselves lack an effective voice in these matters, they at times find themselves obligated to carry out their vital work under circumstances that are impractical or even absurd.
Over the past three years the bill to grant union rights to the early educators has been blocked in our state Senate. Other workers, such as those in the home health care profession, have been granted the right to unionize. Please consider that Vermont’s infants and toddlers are the future of our state, and contact your senators to support unionization for early childhood educators this coming legislative session.
Millard Cox, Ripton; Nora Croll, Ripton; Najat Croll, Ripton; Marcia Croll, Ripton, Colby Benjamin, Middlebury; Jamie McCallum, Middlebury; John Sidaway, Ripton; Michael Olinick, Middlebury; Judith Olinick, Middlebury; Peter Ryersbach, Starksboro; Joreen Doria, Ripton; Harold Doria, Ripton; Mary Worthington, Shoreham; Bunny Daubner, Bristol; Laurie Cox, Ripton; Brennan Michaels, Salisbury; John Beattie, Salisbury; William Sullivan, Starksboro; Julie Durkin Merritt, Rutland; Steven Merritt, Rutland; Christine Birong-Smith, Middlebury; Ellen Oxfeld, Middlebury; and Bill Jesdale, Lincoln

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