Dozens of Burlington workers and residents attended Burlington School Board meeting to demand livable wages. Broad community delegation reads Board their statement: BURLINGTON LIVABLE CITY DELEGATION STATEMENT: “THE TIME FOR LIVABLE WAGES FOR BURLINGTON SCHOOL SUPPORT STAFF IS NOW”

September 11, 2007

Good evening. We would like to thank all of you as elected School Board representatives of the residents of Burlington. We are here tonight, also as representatives of the residents of Burlington to deliver a statement to our School Board regarding the longstanding efforts to establish livable wages for all school support staff in our schools. Our delegation represents the major stakeholders in this community.

[Read by Martha Ahmed, RN from Fletcher Allen Health Care, UPV/AFT Local 5221]

We include school support staff, paraeducators, food service workers, service and maintenance workers, teachers, parents, taxpayers, Fletcher Allen Nurses, UVM students, City Councilors, State Representatives, and leaders of the faith community.

[Read by State Representative Joey Donovon]

We are here tonight to deliver a message you have heard before. You have heard it in many different ways. Hundreds of others have come before many previous School Board meetings over the last 3 years to say the same thing. We have been coming before some of you were even elected to this Board. Thousands of Burlington residents and school staff have signed petitions, wrote letters to you and to the newspaper, we have called you and sent you emails, we have worn buttons and rallied with signs. We know you know what our message is, but we are not sure you have really heard us. The time for livable wages for all school staff is now.

[Read by Donna Iverson, Burlington school paraeducator, BEA member]

On a June 25, 2007 you received a Report on Livable Wages in Burlington Schools: How to Address Poverty in Our Community & Reverse Gender Wage Inequity”. It was produced by the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign and Vermont Workers’ Center and supported by dozens of current and former elected officials, UVM faculty, parents, faith and other community leaders. Unfortunately, then July came and all of the school support staff contracts expired. Then July past, then August and there was still no contract and no livable wages for our school support staff. Now the next school year is underway, and still nothing. So we would like to ask you all to read the report again, but as a reminder we will read a couple of parts:

[Read by Angela Diguilio, UVM Student, SLAP and VT Workers’ Center member]

“Paying livable wages will help reduce poverty. Economic inequality erodes our communities and contributes to the race to the bottom for all workers. In order for Burlington to be a livable city for all residents, employers must pay wages sufficient to meet a person’s basic needs.

[Read by Tim Ashe, Burlington City Councilor]

“Some students have parents who are Burlington School District employees and are forced to work two or even three additional jobs to make ends meet. Parents working two or three jobs do not have adequate time to spend with their children in support of their education at home. Now is the time for the Burlington School Board to do its part in solving the underlying problem by paying livable wages to all school support staff.

[Read by Kaarin Goncz, Burlington high school teacher, BEA]

For Burlington to be a truly livable city, all residents must earn a livable wage. Paying livable wages to our school employees would actually stimulate the economy because low-income families typically spend most of their money on local goods and services, keeping the money in the community. More livable wage jobs mean a stronger local economy, healthier families, and more equitable education opportunities.”

[Read by Rev. Gary Kowalski, Unitarian Universalist Church of Burlington]

The report also points out that of all of the school and city employees now not earning a livable wage, the vast majority are women. Many of these school support staff positions have been historically undervalued jobs, and have historically been done by women. Every single food service worker is a women and every single one does not earn a livable wage. Everyone deserves livable wages and we must end this gender inequity.

[Read by Sandy McAuliffe, Burlington school food service worker, AFSCME Local 1343]

As we just passed Labor Day we are reminded that this struggle is not a new one. In 1912, 30,000 women and young girls working in Massachusetts textile sweatshops including many Vermont farm girls, went on strike. It was called a “Bread & Roses” Strike. They were fighting to increase their meager wages that left them in poverty. But they called it Bread & Roses, because they not only needed to eat, but they deserved to live with a basic level of dignity as human beings and to enjoy life. At this very moment there are school support staff that are working their second or their third job just to try to squeak by each month. In 95 years since this strike, we have come a long way, but employers are still paying poverty wages. Burlington school support staff workers deserve bread and sustenance, and they deserve roses and dignity, too. We ask you to take responsibility as representatives of this community by making livable wages not just a priority but a reality in Burlington Schools now. Thank you.

[Read by Karl LaBounty, Burlington school service & maintenance worker, President AFSCME Local 1343]