Founded in 1998, the Vermont Workers’ Center is a statewide organization of everyday people fighting for economic justice and human dignity.
We’re taking action to stop Wall Street and big corporations from profiting off our health, while advancing policy to make healthcare a human right for everyone.
We know it’s going to take a fight, and we’ll only win if we are organized.
The Vermont Workers’ Center was founded in 1998 by low-wage workers in central Vermont. Through community outreach and the Vermont Workers’ Rights Hotline, which fielded hundreds of calls a year, we helped workers organize to form unions and fight for fair contracts at their workplaces. VWC members led campaigns for livable wages, joined protests against unfair trade policies, and rallied alongside veterans opposed to the US government’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Following the 2008 financial crisis, we launched the Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign, surveying 1200 people and releasing a report detailing the depth and breadth of the healthcare crisis in Vermont. Hundreds of people shared their stories at people’s healthcare forums across the state. On May 1st, 2009—International Workers’ Day—the Campaign rallied in front of the statehouse calling on lawmakers to pass a universal healthcare bill grounded in human rights principles.
Thanks to our efforts and the work of many others, in 2011 Governor Peter Shumlin signed Act 48 into law, establishing the nation’s first universal, publicly financed healthcare system and a Green Mountain Care Board to oversee it. Despite these legislative victories, however, we found ourselves facing a well-funded counter-offensive by the health insurance industry and big business associations seeking to block the implementation of universal healthcare.
In 2014, Gov. Shumlin caved to this pressure and abandoned Act 48, giving himself an out by proposing a lopsided financing plan that would have hurt small businesses—but even with this easily-addressed inequity, the plan he abandoned would have reduced healthcare costs for 93 percent of Vermont families. In response, hundreds rallied inside the Vermont statehouse, with 29 people arrested in a sit-in calling on lawmakers to implement universal healthcare. Yet despite the clear moral stakes and policy path forward—including a financing bill in the House backed by 100+ economists—Vermont’s legislative leadership chose to stick with the governor and deny their constituents access to affordable healthcare.
Rebuilding momentum to fulfill the promise of Act 48, VWC members set to work organizing to defend Medicaid, holding the Green Mountain Care Board accountable for skyrocketing health insurance rates, and opposing the for-profit consolidation of our region’s hospitals under UVM Medical Center. In 2018 we joined our longtime partners Put People First! Pennsylvania in launching the national Nonviolent Medicaid Army as a vehicle to unite the poor through the struggle for healthcare, holding Marches for Medicaid in St. Johnsbury, Barre, and Bellows Falls.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which demonstrated to the world the injustices of our country’s for-profit healthcare system, put Medicaid expansion and rural hospital closures back on the public agenda. VWC members held in-person marches and rallies, online public forums, and collected hundreds of petition signatures demanding hospitals be kept open and Medicaid expanded to everyone, regardless of income or any other status. With 15 million people estimated to be kicked off of Medicaid when the the federal Public Health Emergency ends—including 30,000 in Vermont—we’re mobilizing with the Nonviolent Medicaid Army to ensure that coming off of this pandemic, our communities move forward together, and not one step back.