Human Rights Focus of Burlington Conference

BURLINGTON, Vt. – School's in session at Burlington High this Labor Day weekend, but most of those in attendance aren't in grades nine through 12. Young and old are here discuss issues like healthcare, education, housing, food, work with dignity, and the environment.  A conference hosted by Vermont Worker's Center.

"The only way we can shift the balance of power in the country is by coming together and making our voices heard," said the center's Mary Gerisch. "And out of the conference is going to come a declaration of human rights.

Hundreds are listening to speakers, or taking part in breakout sessions, like one covering the media and how it works. Peacham resident Rev. Donna Colletti-Lowre, says she came to hear more about home health care — specifically, what can be done to offer more help to care providers. "They're tireless. They're kind, compassionate and they need to have the kind of pay that they can live on," she said.

She says she's impressed with the care provided to a friend of hers who suffers from Parkinson's disease, but she says those who do so much, receive little in the form of wages, vacation time, and benefits. "For me, it's a human rights issue, and that's one of the things that I care about passionately in my life," she added.

Colletti-Lowre says she's happy to give up a portion of her holiday weekend to deal with substantial issues.
Organizers say, an event like this can restore the original purpose of Monday's day-off.
"Labor Day seems like the perfect time to have it because the labor struggle is certainly integral to the concept of human rights,"  Gerisch said.

Conference attendees say that struggle isn't over.