Put People First Sets Tone for Session with Unified Call for Human Rights

(MONTPELIER, Vermont) – Three hundred members of the Put People First movement packed an overflowing State House room yesterday to send one unified message to legislators: the people are leading the way toward a paradigm shift in Vermont politics. Human rights, fundamental needs, and meaningful public participation must be at the center of government.

“The people of Vermont are ready for a paradigm shift, and we’re looking forward to working with our legislators for bold action toward that in 2013,” said Vermont Workers’ Center President Mary Gerisch following the press conference. “It’s time for people, not money, to be at the center of the way we do things. By unifying across issues and calling for a Vermont that fulfills all human rights, Put People First is poised to change what’s politically possible this session.”

Put People First marks a historic shift in the way communities and organizations have advocated for their interests in the legislature. Rather than competing with one another over resources in a falsely construed climate of scarcity, Put People First is unified in its call for a Vermont where our government and economy function to protect and fulfill the human rights of all.

More than a dozen organizations joined together to host the press conference and rally, which set forth Put People First’s vision for Vermont and its specific legislative priorities this session. Groups officially delivered the Put People First Agenda to Speaker of the House Shap Smith and Senator Phil Baruth, along with thousands of postcards showing broad public support for the Agenda.

The Agenda calls on legislators to make concrete progress on six key issues before them this year that will advance the human rights of Vermont’s people:

  • Stand with us for the human right to healthcare by continuing toward universal healthcare in Vermont, rooted in human rights principles. As we transition toward Green Mountain Care, make certain that our health system expands the public provision of health services and does not move backward by limiting or denying access to public programs by making them less affordable.  
  • Advance the human right to safe and dignified work by establishing paid sick days, evidence-based protections for healthcare workers against fatigue, burnout and worker and patient injury. Support the right to organize for early childhood educators and independent providers of home and community living services.
  • Ensure the human right to freedom of movement and access to transportation by supporting access to driver’s licenses for all Vermont residents regardless of immigration status.
  • Guarantee the human rights and full inclusion of people with disabilities by providing adequate funding for home and community based programs, both now and in the future. Strengthen Vermont’s promise and commitment to a community-based system for people with disabilities, keeping the promise made when Brandon Training School closed 20 years ago.
  • Advance the human right to a healthy environment and livable planet by enacting home weatherization legislation that includes equitable financing and universal access, and take all possible steps to prevent the transportation of climate destabilizing tar sands oil through Vermont.
  • Move forward on a People’s Budget, based on human rights principles, created through an accountable process of public participation. Make people, not money, the center of budgeting by funding services based on the fundamental needs of people in Vermont.



Contact: Darya Marchenkova, Vermont Workers’ Center Communications Coordinator, 802-363-9615,