While most workers in the United States have the right to organize, that has not always been the case. Most private sector employees won the right to organize in the 1930s, but nurses who worked at nonprofit, nongovernmental hospitals, such as Fletcher Allen, didn’t have the legal right to organize until 1974. This extension of rights was not without controversy; there were many who claimed that health care would fall apart and nurses would leave the profession if they were allowed to have a collective voice. None of that came to fruition.
There are still many who need legislation in order to legally organize. Today I watched the Vermont Senate take a unanimous vote on a bill that would allow home health providers the right to organize. While this is an exciting and important step forward for this profession and for the people and families they serve, it is critical to recognize that there are thousands of other Vermonters providing equally important services in our communities — the early educators who have been tirelessly working to have that same opportunity — and a small few in the Vermont Senate are denying them that opportunity.
As a nurse of 25 years, I worked for 14 years without a union. Nurses were underpaid and overworked, morale was extremely low, and turnover was high. Our voices through our union brought significant improvements in quality of care, as well as improved job satisfaction.
I recognize the similarities between our challenges and those of child care and home care. It is time for these child care providers to be able to work collectively to improve their work conditions and profession.
I hope the Senate will rise up for early educators who for the last three years have been asking for the same rights the Senate granted unanimously to home health providers. To deny their request would be inexplicable.
Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals
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