Civil Rights

Civil Rights

Paid Sick Days are a Vermont Value

We, in each of our towns, and throughout The Valley are, together, a community.  As Town Meeting approaches, I trust that all of us, regardless of our particular political persuasions, agree.  And as a community we do right to concur that one does well, when one’s neighbor does well.  This commitment to our friends, family, and fellow residents is an old one. When the Green Mountain Boys evicted New York land surveyors, tax collectors, and sheriffs, I do not doubt that they too were motivated by this notion of self-preservation as inalienably linked to community; Freedom and Unity. More recently, we saw this belief manifest during the crisis following Irene. Two and one half years ago I was honored to see many of you from Waitsfield, Warren, Duxbury, Fayston, and beyond coming to lend a hand in Moretown during our hour of need.  Such acts of human camaraderie will never be forgotten.  In essence Vermont has a long and proud history of people reaching out in solidarity when their neighbors could use a hand.  We are, in a word, a people who embrace and honor the core value associated with the very notion of community as the foundation upon which rests the prosperity of the individual.

Today, we can and do express our sense of community, not only in time of crisis, but also through a maturing social compact which gives form to the worth and well-being of our fellow citizens.  Maintaining and improving an equitable education system that gives support to children and families is one such expression.  Creating a Vermont controlled healthcare system that provides insurance and quality medical care regardless of job or lot in life is also such an expression. Guaranteeing that all working Vermonters are afforded the right to accrue paid sick days is yet another.

It is for these reasons that I support H208, a bill currently in the Vermont House of Representatives that would guarantee all Vermonters the right to earn up to 7 sick days in a given year. As your neighbor, I encourage you to support this noble effort too.

The fact is, all people get sick some time or other; most of us a few times a year.  When this happens, when one has a fever, one should be able to stay home for a day and get better.  And if your kid is home sick, and if both parents have to work, one parent should be afforded the economic ability to care for the child during that time of need. How could one begin to construct a moral argument against this statement?  Either we are a community, and therefore embody the core truth inherent in the principle which is Vermont, or we are not. I assert that we are Vermonters.

However, the reality is that thousands of low income people in these Green Hills do not have any paid sick days. When they get sick, they often must make a hard decision: work while their body and mind are turned against them, or stay home and miss one fifth of their weekly pay. For the many, this one few-and-far-between unpaid sick day means the phone will be shut off; the rent will be late; the kids will miss a meal. For those that do work when they are ill, not only does their productivity go down, but they typically infect their co-workers which, in turn, makes productivity sink measurably lower.  Therefore, as a community and as Vermonters, it is absurd to maintain a status quo which serves no human, neighborly, or long-term interest. For these and other reasons, H208 (paid sick days) is supported by both Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility and Organized Labor. 

As a resident of Moretown, as part of the broader Valley community, I encourage all of you to take a moment to reflect on this human issue.  I encourage you to express your support for H208.  I also encourage our two State Representatives, Maxine Grad and Adam Greshin to actively support this bill with no exemptions. I also call upon our Governor and Washington County Senate delegation to likewise support this legislation. By doing so, they will all be casting a vote in favor of the Valley’s working families and in line with Vermont’s long tradition of valuing our community over short term and private interests. After all, one does well, when one’s neighbor does well.

David Van Deusen is Chair of the Moretown Progressivt Comittee. He is also the elected 1st Constable of Moretown, is a former Selectboard Member, and currently works for the Vermont State Employees Association as a Union Representative responsible for Central Vermont.

Earned Sick Time

Recently a letter appeared in my local paper that claimed the Earned Sick Time bill (H.208) that passed my committee today, is “written for a small percentage of people that typically do not want to help themselves” and “the same people who keep coming back with their hand out.” The opposite is true: this bill will affect 60,000 hard-working Vermonters who work for businesses that do not currently offer this benefit.

Historically, labor bills such as overtime pay and the 40-hour work week, for example, were mandated because employers did not always prioritize workers health and safety. I found it particularly interesting that even though the author of this letter disapproved of government mandates and intrusion, he would “dictate what they [the poor] can buy with government subsidies.”

The General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee took testimony on H.208 from over 85 different groups and individuals, including Vermont businesses, employees, professors, nonprofits and the general public. We learned that a lack of paid earned sick time largely affects women -- caretakers of our children, the elderly and the vulnerable -- who work part time and/or for low wages, many in the food service industry. Children are deeply affected too, because parents are unable to leave work to pick them up from school and daycare when they are sick, further spreading disease and illness.

The numerous Vermont businesses who already voluntarily offer earned sick time (comprehensive/combined time off qualifies as sick time under this bill) testified that their employees are happier, healthier, and more productive. That is a win-win by anyone's standards.

H.732

With the introduction of H.732, co-sponsored by Rep. Susan Hatch Davis, Vermont is the 12th state to introduce legislation that would block some of the effects of mass data collection by the National Security Agency (NSA). The bill as drafted proposes to prohibit the State from assisting or participating in the collection of electronic data or metadata by the federal government or from using any of the data collected unless it is obtained pursuant to a warrant issued by a court.

Read an article on H.732 here >>

Read the full bill here >>

Corrections and Institutions Update

House Corrections and Institutions was invited by Senate Judiciary to hear from Corrections Commissioner Andrew Pallito and senior policy and legal adviser for Public Safety, Robert Sand. Both introduced the committees to a proposal for a pretrial risk and assessment program. This program would identify defendants who should be diverted for treatment of substance abuse or mental health issues into receiving treatment for their addiction rather than incarceration.

The proposal is based on three programs that are being used by state’s attorneys in some parts of the state. Two are in Chittenden County — the Rapid Intervention Community Court and Rapid Referral Program. A third, the Sparrow Program, offers case management and reporting to courts in Windsor County.

People’s access to justice is unpredictable across the state depending on the programs implemented by (or available to) elected State’s Attorneys in their counties. For example, people being arrested for drug possession in Chittenden County often experience much lighter sentencing than in more rural parts of the state where these programs are not in use. We can expect this to be a top discussion in committee in the weeks to come as the bill (S.295) introduced by Senator Sears and others is on fast track to come over to us from the Senate.

F-35 Battle Moving to Burlington Council as Key State Dem Joins the Opposition

September 4, 2013; Kevin Kelley; Seven Days

The battle over local basing of the F-35 will soon return to a familiar arena — the Burlington city council. Last summer, councilors passed a resolution asking for more information about the planes without supporting or opposing the basing. But now F-35 opponents intend to introduce a resolution declaring the war plane unwelcome at the city-owned airport.

The four Progressives who plan to bring the resolution to a vote on October 7 face a difficult task. To win, they need to sway a majority of the 14 council members. Ward 7 councilor Tom Ayres, considered the most potentially persuadable of the seven council Democrats, said on the margins of a Wednesday press conference outside city hall that he will not vote for any resolution categorically rejecting the F-35. And that’s exactly what the Progs’ proposal would do.

But the plane’s opponents did wheel out a new political weapon on Wednesday. Three Democratic state legislators, including senate majority leader Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden, pictured), attended the anti-F-35 press event. Activists there argued that the Burlington city council has the power, as landlord of the airport, to prevent its tenant, the Vermont Air National Guard, from operating the aircraft on city property.

Read the whole article >>

Resolution on Justice for Trayvon Martin

WHEREAS, Trayvon Martin was murdered at point blank range by George Zimmerman for “walking while black” in a neighborhood where Trayvon was staying with his father, after Zimmerman racially profiled and followed Trayvon, despite being told by police to stay in his car;

WHEREAS, the acquittal of George Zimmerman exposes the blatant racism inherent in our judicial system and the effect that racial bias has on prosecutors, juries, and the media;

WHEREAS, African-Americans in similar situations have been convicted and are serving jail sentences for attempting to defend themselves from bodily harm, notably in the case of Marissa Alexander (also of Florida), a victim of domestic violence who was attacked by her husband and fired a bullet into the ceiling; although there was no injury to her attacker, she was given a prison sentence of 20 years;

WHEREAS, the Police Departments of Burlington, South Burlington, UVM and Winooski have participated in data collection on racial disparities in traffic stops since 2009 and a 2012 report on that data concluded there were significant racial disparities in traffic stops, outcomes of stops, arrests and searches;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party condemns the racial biases in our judicial system and at all levels of government and urges our fellow citizens, both those in and out of public office, to ask themselves what they can do to address this ongoing and pervasive problem of racism in our culture;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party urges the Department of Justice to bring federal charges against George Zimmerman;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will work towards ensuring that racial disparities in traffic stops, and in the criminal justice system generally, are eliminated by 2018 by advocating for more training and oversight for police;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will advocate that all school districts be required to produce annual reports on racial disparities in disciplinary actions in the schools, with a goal of ending such disparities by 2018;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will advocate for increased recruitment and hiring of people of color by state and local government and school districts throughout Vermont;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will advocate for increased anti-racism and cultural diversity training for employees of state and local government and school districts throughout the state;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will continue to actively work against racism in our communities, in ourselves, and structural racism in our institutions of education and government.

Adopted August 10, 2013

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