On Monday, December 10th, 2007 at 3:30 pm members of the Burlington Livable City Coalition, a community coalition that works to ensure Burlington is truly livable for all its resident, held a candlelight vigil outside AFSMCE/School District negotiations asking the school district to do the right thing and pay a livable wage (including members of VT Workers’ Center, Livable Wage Campaign, BEA, SLAP, UVM United Staff, AFGE, and Laborers). December 10th is recognized by the United Nations as International Human Rights Day – this action helps to bring to light that workers’ rights are human rights. It is a human right for a worker to meet their basic needs of food, housing, transportation, child care, health care and clothing – being paid a livable wage will allow for this.

“It is fitting that this contract negotiation is happening on Human Rights Day, we will hold this candlelight vigil because having livable wages is a fundamental human right,” said James Haslam, Director of the Vermont Workers Center, which helps coordinate the Burlington Livable City Coalition. “When Burlington food service workers receive a livable wage that is a victory for the entire community, and we need to move to where every worker in Burlington and across Vermont gets paid a livable wage.”

For the past three years the Food Service workers in the Burlington School District, members of AFSMCE Local 1343, have fought to receive a livable wage. However, despite the recent livable wage victory of the para-educators and the Burlington Education Association (BEA), the Food Services workers remain in negotiations with the Burlington School District.  

“After our recent livable wage victory it is more important then ever that the Burlington School District will do the right thing and pay the food service workers a livable wage for their valuable work,” said Donna Iverson, an Edmunds Elementary School para-educator and leader of their recent victory.

According to the Report on Livable Wages in Burlington Schools put out in June 2007 by the Peace and Justice Center’s, Vermont Livable Wage Campaign and the Vermont Workers Center, no food service workers make the hourly livable wage, 43% earn $8.59/hr or less in 2005-2006 school year, and 94% of food service workers are women.

“As the school district continues to confront the issue of poverty in our schools, it is imperative that they make sure their employees make enough to meet their basic needs,” says Colin Robinson, Director of the Peace and Justice Center’s Vermont Livable Wage Campaign. “If the children of your own food service workers make so little that they qualify for free or reduced price lunch, you know you have progress to make in combating poverty.”

AFSMCE Local 1343 and the Food Service workers have been in negotiations since their contract ended on June 30th, 2007. No agreement was reached, however, indiciations that a livable wage settlement could happen soon.