Commentary: Robbing the Poor to Give to the Powerful (March, 2014)

By Rob RoperRob Roper

As the legislature wrapped up business before heading home for the Town Meeting Day break, the Vermont senate voted 22-8 in favor of An Act Related to Childcare Providers. What this bill would do is effectively pick the pockets of Vermont’s smallest businesses, mostly run by women who don’t make a lot of money. The windfall from this action will be benefit some of the most powerful special interest organizations in Montpelier, and represents a very ugly side of crony politics.

The bill (S.316) allows early childcare providers to form a union in order to collectively bargain for increased government subsidies. What’s wrong with that, you might ask? We all have a right to freedom of association and if people want to form a union they have every right to do so. Yes. Absolutely. However, this bill has to be taken in the context of another bill passed into law during the 2013 legislative session, Act 37.

Act 37, An Act Relating to Payment of Agency Fees And Collective Bargaining Fees, forces people who do not choose to join a union — and want nothing to do with a union — to pay fees equal to 85% of full union membership dues to the union that is ostensibly bargaining on their behalf. In other words, it allows unions to use the power of government to confiscate money from people who are not its members.

For example, in the aftermath of passage of Act 37, the Vermont NEA (National Education Association) was able to (and will be able to do so annually) collect several hundred thousand dollars in “fees” from roughly 2,600 mostly low-wage support staff who can least afford to hand over a chunk of their paychecks. If the childcare unionization bill passes, the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO, who are supporting the bill, can expect a similar windfall. This is why Vermonters for the Independence of Child Care Professionals, a coalition of over 250 registered home providers across the state, is frantically opposed to the bill.

So, why would a legislature with a supermajority of small-p progressives, always out for “the people over the powerful,” be overwhelmingly signing off on this heavy handed, reverse Robin Hood legislation? The answer is crony politics in which the powerful look out for each other at the expense of anyone else.

On the heels of collecting its newfound revenue, the NEA put over $100,000  support for the majority party’s Single Payer Healthcare initiative. They spent $35,000 on a poll that revealed popular support for single payer has dropped by half to just 24% in the past twelve months, and then poured $80,000 into Vermont Leads, a Single Payer advocacy organization.

After the senate approved the childcare unionization bill, the America Federation of Teachers announced that it will be donating another $100,000 to start Vermont’s Coalition for Universal Reform, a 501(c)4 that “plans to unleash a lobbying, organizing and advertising campaign in support of Gov. Peter Shumlin’s plan to provide universal health insurance in 2017.” (Seven Days, 3/20/17)

And who will lead this new organization? The House Majority Whip, Tess Taylor (D-Barre), who resigned her office to take the lobbying job.

The history of this bill is just as unseemly. In 2012, when an earlier version of the childcare unionization bill failed in the senate, Ben Johnson, president of the AFL-CIO, reportedly threatened the Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell (D-Windsor) “by sliding a piece of paper across his desk that showed how much money the union had spent on political action committees that supported Campbell and [the Democratic] party and asking him to support the bill.” (Vermont Digger, 2/7/12)

Campbell was at the time justifiably outraged, saying, “The reason why I believe this bill does not have the right to go forward is the tactics used to intimidate myself and this body are so against what good clean government is about, I think it would be rewarding bad behavior.” It still does.

Senator Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland) opposed the childcare unionization bill this year on the floor of the senate. He pointed out that the legislature has the power to increase reimbursement rates to childcare providers without the necessity of a union telling them to do so. If the legislature sees a problem, why not just address it directly?

Perhaps because doing so would not put money into the pockets of powerful special interests that would in turn use that money to prop up the majority party’s failing signature policy initiative? If hundreds of low income childcare providers have to “pay their fair share” in order to make this happen, so be it.

– Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert Lefebvre March 28, 2014 at 9:14 pm

I never liked union because wherever I worked and there was one it help me back from advancement. Due to majority over merits one could not advance as quickly as in a free environment. I feel that is against freedom, it remains me of dictatorship.
Unions were good when they started, they helped to eliminate slavery, but now they are so powerful that they dictate to companies how to run their business. They remind me of organized crime, which brings up the credit cards system. Back in 1962, if my memory is right, I believed that a law was past (Robert Kennedy was involved I think in passing it) to prevent such organization from charging outrageous finance charges to individuals for advance on their paycheck and other things, I can’t remember all the details but I thing the % was capped at 12% max., then next thing that I realized was the credit cards coming out, and now see how much the fee are for that. Did they formed or joined banks and found other ways to do the same things that they were doing before?
I feel that there is more corruption now than then. Were is our freedom going. Dictatorship is taking over, even faster since Barrack is in power.


Robert Lefebvre March 28, 2014 at 9:16 pm

In thew first sentence the word help should be (held)


Ralph M McGregor March 29, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Will the last conservative to leave the state please turn out the lights !!
Is there any hope for the state. 3 of my grandchildren have left and most of the young pro growth small government types have also left.


Doug Richmond, Underhill April 1, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I too question the 85% for “agency and negotiating fees” that non-union folks have to pay to unions.??
I doubt that any audit was done on Union costs. I am presuming that negotiating fees are more likely 25%! Then recruiting efforts about 40% and perhaps 35% is making sure they have the legislators and congresspersons by the throat with campaign direct contributions, printing and phone banks, flash mobs etc.
We are beginning to see red shirted flash mobs appearing with bullhorns in Burlington and Montpeculiar. No grass roots there!
The 85% was strictly a political decision, in order to favor the Unions and the Dem’s.


David Bresett April 14, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Good job Rob. I still believe in Unions over non union shops. The Union people are always better trained and better managed, I’m an electrician, so I’ve seen how much better union trained employees are. You failed to mention that. I’m not sure why they would force people to pay union dues, I’m sure there’s a lot more to it that meets the eye. Childcare providers make less than minimum wage, so adding them to the bargaining unite is a good thing. Saying that they don’t want this is dishonest, a majority of the providers voted for joining the union, or else it wouldn’t have happened.
Here’s my rub with this article; the amount of money spent to make unions look bad is in the stratosphere and it’s a hell of a lot more money than what has been spent pro union. Unions are what made the middle class strong in America. The fight that the right has been waging will make this state not worth living in, so I thank the Democrats for doing a good job. Even if I have to pay a little more in taxes.
Republicans held this state for over a century, remember and what has happened in the last thirty years, starting with Reagans pathetic regime and all the taxes he took from the poor to pay the rich is why the state went left. His trickle down economics doesn’t work. We have had more than enough time for it to work and so far nothing. When Republicans start thinking about people and not billionaires, then and only then, will people of Vermont turn conservative again. Collectively Vermonters ain’t fooled by the shenanigans the right has been trying to pull over the years. So when republicans decide to join the people, then you’ll see a change.


tom feerick May 10, 2014 at 11:01 am

David, first of all childcare operators do not make less than min wage. Why would they do it? Union trades are no better trained than non-union. they both have to have the same licensing testing. There is not a lot more than meets the eye. They are just plain and simply forcing money from an industry that does not want them, nor needs them and cant to do anything for them. They are a group of independent business owners (with out a boss). No a majority of providers did not vote for this. Talk to many of them to see where they stand on this. Did you read the article above. The house got bought with money from other state childcare providers. I am sick of the unions taking claim for the 40 hr week, vacation, sick time and overtime pay. The unions just took claim to something Henry Ford set up in his non union factories. He did it to run a more efficient factory.


Mark Shepard May 8, 2014 at 6:27 pm

David, I worked years as an electrician in Vermont, went through the apprenticeship as well and earned my Journeyman’s license before going on to engineering school. I was not union and it worked out very good. We followed the code and good practices, just like a union electrician would. So while I am sure you received some good training, so did I. I prefer the freedom to choose.


Mark Shepard May 8, 2014 at 6:35 pm

David … It is funny you bring up billionaires the way you do. Are you really unaware that the Democrat party in Vermont is under the thumb of billionaire George Soros who is merely using Vermont as one of his beachheads to push socialistic ideas onto our nation. Have you bought the Democrat propaganda that all the wealthy are Republican leaning, because that just is not so. Why would a billionaire push for socialism? Because socialism maintains the status quo, which while it keeps him at the top, it does so by cutting out the rungs of the economic ladder that he had available to him. Mobility is very stunted and restricted. Soros clearly likes that.


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