Shelburne Elsa Bosma wasn’t sure what to think when American Federation of Teachers representatives showed up at her home child-care business espousing the benefits of unionization.
The teachers union encouraged her to sign a card, supposedly to get more information about health insurance and other benefits that would be available if child care workers became unionized.
Bosma signed the card, like many other child care providers across the Green Mountain State. They didn’t realize it was a union scheme to gather signatures in support of the AFT as the sole bargaining agent for the state's child-care providers.
The AFT has pursued similar unionization efforts with child care providers in Michigan, Minnesota, and other states as a way to boost its declining membership and dues revenue.
"We were told it was for more information, but we heard subsequently these cards were used to show support for unionization," Bosmasaid. "We asked to get our cards back and the AFT said we would have to come and look though the hundreds or thousands of cards they collected and find them ourselves."
Perhaps union officials should have given her a more satisfactory response. They had no way of knowing they were firing up a woman who would play a huge role in defeating their attempt to unionize child care providers in Vermont.
During Vermont’s 2010 legislative session, a bill to authorize a unionization vote for the state’s child care providers passed the House, but didn't become law.
If a unionization vote succeed, every child care worker in the state would have been forced into the AFT, and forced into paying hundreds per year in dues.
For Bosma, that was a troubling proposition.
She researched the AFT’s proposal. There was no health insurance or other benefits to be gained. All the union seemed to provide were vague references to "a stronger voice" for child care workers in state politics. And that privilege likely would cost between $500 and $700 in dues per year.