Vermont Workers' Center Statement on Livable Wages for All in Burlington

For 14 years the Vermont Workers’ Center has been working with community members and labor organizations to ensure the well-being and an adequate standard of living for everyone in our city.  We have stood by the people of Burlington in the struggle for a livable wage for all, an important measure toward making sure that all people enjoy the right to live with dignity - free from want of our fundamental needs.

While we have supported the Burlington 2001 livable wage ordinance, we have always believed that it must go further. There must be no exemptions to the ordinance. Quite the opposite. If we want to secure the well-being of everyone in our community, EVERYONE must be guaranteed a livable wage. If we continue to believe that everyone should be able to work in a family-supporting job, then we must expand the notion of livable wages to include not only “direct city employees and employees working on city service contracts or ... businesses that have received grants from the city of at least $15,000,” but all workers in all sectors.  Burlington, the so-called most livable city, can only thrive if we overcome poverty, sustain a healthy community, and enable everyone to participate in economic and civic life. Our city cannot afford poverty wage jobs that put a strain on families and on our community as a whole.

We emphasize the following key principles in regard to the current debate involving the Weinberger administration, the city council, Skinny Pancake and the Burlington Airport:

  • As residents and workers of our city, our voices must be heard in our city hall and at our workplaces. We are the ones who live and work here, and any decisions about how city policies are implemented must be made in a transparent and accountable way. Let’s be open and clear about how we can actually make Burlington a livable city for ALL.
  • If our city and our state want to continue leading the local food movement in this country, we must make sure that everyone who works in the production, delivery and sale of food is treated with dignity and respect.  This requires livable wages, and the right - and practical support - of workers to organize and collectively bargain with their employers.
  • Any business that fails to treat its workers with dignity is, in fact, creating a non-sustainable community - even if its products are sourced from Vermont farms. No food vendor should be considered “sustainable” unless they ensure that the workers who grow, ship and sell food to our community can sustain themselves and their families.

If we want Burlington to stand up to its oft cited claim as a most livable city, we need to go beyond the status quo of “market” - or, more accurately, poverty - standards for wages and working conditions. If we want to create a city that truly is livable for all, we need to make Burlington a city where all workers are paid a livable wage and can support their families. Let’s strive for a livable Burlington for all. Let’s Put People First.