On Opening Day of Vermont Legislature, Rally Calls for Health & Dignity in 2014

"All the People Need Health & Dignity"
Group of 100 People from Across Vermont Demonstrate Commitment to Health & Dignity Plan for 2014 on First Day of Legislative Session

(MONTPELIER, Vermont) – A vibrant, energized group of over 100 people gathered at the State House this morning to kick off the 2014 legislative session unified and committed to Health and Dignity for Vermont.

Watch a video summarizing the rally and press conference.

Amanda Sheppard, a Middlebury resident and member of Vermont Workers' Center and AFSCME Homecare United, kicked off the rally by reminding participants that it was unity that helped AFSCME and Migrant Justice win historic legislative victories last year.

Travis Beebe-Woodard, a registered nurse and a member of Vermont Nurses and Health Professionals, spoke about paid sick days as a priority for public health, a healthy economy, and healthy communities as a whole.

"As an ICU nurse, I see the real and unfortunate effects of untreated health conditions in almost every patient I care for. Many of these conditions are screened for during routine preventive visits," said Beebe-Woodard. "This legislation grants the use of paid sick leave for preventive health care."

The summary of the paid sick days bill is attached. A new bill was just introduced in the Senate with 10 sponsors. S.255 reflects the latest language for which the Vermont Paid Sick Days Coalition will be campaigning. Hearings are expected to begin in the House of Representatives in the coming weeks, where momentum is growing to pass paid sick days legislation.

Mary Gerisch, elected President of the Vermont Workers' Center and a Bennington resident, rallied the crowd to keep Vermont legislators' "eyes on the prize" toward universal, human rights-based healthcare. "This year will be the year we get the prize: a universal system which not only states that healthcare is human right but guarantees each person in VT will be able to exercise that right."

Max Barrows, Outreach Coordinator at Green Mountain Self-Advocates, spoke about why this coalition of organizations is taking steps to make the state budget meet the fundamental human needs of the people of Vermont.

"Why is it that the typical Vermont family is less well off than ten years ago, yet the total amount of personal income in Vermont continues to grow?" Barrows asked the crowd. "Our elected representatives have to adopt a new approach to addressing unmet human need in Vermont by adopting a people's budget."

Kay Curtis of Vermont Early Educators United closed the press conference by signaling the organization's dedication to winning the right to organize in 2014.

Senator Phil Baruth, Senator Dick McCormack, and House Majority Leader Willem Jewett accepted 2,000 petitions that Vermont Workers' Center collected over the fall.