Highlights of 2007, Movement Building in 2008
As 2007 began, the Vermont Workers’ Center (VWC) was focused on keeping the momentum of the Burlington Livable City Coalition after the 2006 contract victories for Fletcher Allen nurses (UPV/AFT Local 5221), Burlington Teachers (BEA) and University of Vermont (UVM) Service & Maintenance workers (UE Local 267). We were still in the midst of a difficult struggle of COTS employees who ultimately had their right to organize denied by their administration and Board of Directors.
In February, we partnered with the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign to organize a Vermont Workers Rights Board Hearing with Bernie Sanders hearing testimony from dozens of people from a wide variety of workplace struggles fighting the economic “Race To The Bottom.” People working in education, construction, hospitality and factories all talked about the need to organize together to reverse the economic trends and combat corporate policies that hurt working people everywhere.
In March, we were working on our other main priority, which was training emerging workplace leaders. Twenty-five participants from over a dozen Burlington-area workplaces attended out first ever VWC Solidarity School, a skill-building three day training focused on organizing in the workplace.
In April, another event brought together many of struggles of 2007 when we mobilized a March for Livable Wages & Family Supporting Jobs in Burlington that started at HO Wheeler School with school support staff workers, then went down the retail and food service downtown sector of Church Street, some of whom were fighting for the Tipped Minimum Wage increase, then stopped outside a Verizon facility to join workers who were ramping up their fight to Stop The Sale to Fairpoint, before finally heading up to UVM where the Student Labor Action Project for the second year in a row had created a Tent City encampment in their struggle to create livable wage and right to organize policies at their university.
In honor of May Day, we held our 9th Anniversary Dinner and Celebration, which between breaking bread with the UVM hunger strikers, the inspirational Elaine Bernard and the moving speeches by Vermont members of the Iraq Veterans Against The War was truly a night to remember.
On June 12th, the Burlington Livable City Campaign mobilized for a huge turnout for the School Board meeting calling for livable wages. Also that month we partnered with Vermont Health Care For All and VPIRG to raise funds for hundreds of free tickets to uninsured Vermonters to see Michael Moore’s film “SiCKO.”
When July began, a large group of VWC members were in Georgia, as in Atlanta, GA comprising our big delegation to the first-ever US Social Forum in Atlanta (check out a very cool short video from the VT crew).
July ended with one of our biggest Steering Committee meetings to date on the Burlington Waterfront, and at that Summer Meeting we decided to turn our focus for August and much of September on the Stop The Sale of Verizon to Fairpoint Struggle affecting over 600 Vermont workers and thousands more in NH and ME organized with CWA and IBEW.
We got very familiar with the Vermont county fair circuit as we tabled to Stop The Sale all over the state. This was heating up Labor Day Weekend, when IBEW Local 2326 was tabling at the Champlain Fair, we were down at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland, we organized a big event at the Old Labor Hall in Barre, sent a crew to canvass to Stop The Sale in Northfield and still helped organize the 6th Annual Burlington Labor Day Celebration drawing 300+ people.
October 9th was a particularly busy, but fruitful day. First we mobililed members to join the Fletcher Allen nurses union for a rally to Save The Nurse Midwives and the FAHC midwifery program. Then that evening as part of the Livable City Coalition we brought another community delegation to the Burlington School Board demanding livable wages for support staff. With the help of this solidarity, by the end of that week, there had been two victorious settlements, as the midwifery program had been taken off the chopping block and the Burlington paraeducators got a livable wage agreement after years of struggle.
In November, as part of Vermont Labor Against The War, VWC members loaded into two vans to participate in the huge anti-war rally in Boston and a couple of days later joined the Burlington Education Association to celebrate the paraeducator livable wage contract ratification. On November 17th, the VWC opened its doors to the new Burlington office, and now we truly have a Center!
On December 10th, Intl Human Rights Day, we kept up the pressure on the Burlington School Board for livable wages for the rest of the support staff by holding a candlelight vigil outside their negotiations with food service workers. We also published the VWC 2008 People’s Calendar, which thanks to some gifted designers and hardwork researching dates and photo archives – truly came out amazing (we still have some left, order yours before they are all gone, very cool).
We closed out the year by holding a solidarity action protesting the demolition of public housing in New Orleans. And then the surprise big news came out, thanks to the hard work of the Verizon workers and many of you, and despite the hundreds of thousands spent of advertising and lobbying, the Vermont Public Service Board rejected the Verizon Sale! In NH and ME it passed, but once again Vermonters proved to be a tough bunch to fool. This fight isn’t over yet, but despite serious odds we pulled out a big victory in Round 1. The Verizon sale will still comeback with revisions to try to get approval (stay updated at www.stopthesalenow.org )
Now 2008 is here, there are huge challenges, but already there are signs working families have had enough and will organize for change. On Jan 3rd, we organized a press conference supporting 400+ workers (90% + who are women) at Stanley Associates in St. Albans who are organizing a union in response to massive speed-ups and wage cuts from this federal contractor. They are incredibly united, but will need everyone’s support (see photo and letter we sent to CEO).
If you hadn’t heard yet, we are coordinating a huge Jan 20-27 Week of Action which includes on January 26th helping organize a really huge event, Building A Worker Justice Movement in Burlington (it would be great if you pre-registered right nor on-line! And even greater if you got some others to do the same, download flyers). On January 28th we are organizing a citywide livable wage button-day in Burlington to support the rest of the Burlington school support staff. Starting in February we are holding the 2008 Solidarity School Training on Saturdays spread out through the winter (let us know if you are interested, email james [at] workerscenter.org )
Help us Build A Movement in 2008! Change is in Air!!