Text of speech at Fossil Fuel Freedom Rally

My name is Sandy Gaffney. I am here today representing the Vermont Workers Center because of Tropical Storm Irene. I lived in Westons Mobile Home Park just outside of Montpelier in Berlin, Vt. My home and 70 other mobile homes were destroyed by the severe flooding as well as most of our belongings.

After the storm, a lot of people came to help us out, including folks who were members of the Vermont Workers Center. When it was clear that my neighbors and I needed to join together to have a voice, we formed Mobile Home Park Residents for Fairness and Equality and joined the Put People First Campaign of the Vermont Workers Center. I have little doubt that this storm and the other extreme weather events Vermont has experienced are connecxted to global warming. The impacts of climate change are devestating. We can't ignore this challenge any longer, and we, the people, must use the skills of organizing to change this system.

we have incredible power when we come together. Solutions for climate crisis are the same as solutions to improve peoples lives. If we organize together, we can be even more powerful. That's why the Fossil Fuel Freedom and Put People First Campaign are really one campaign for people and the planet. Let's do this together.

Three and a half years ago the VWC started the Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign. We realized that healthcare was one of the biggest issues affecting so many areas of Vermonters lives and we had to do something about it.

For many decades people had been advocating for universal healthcare in Vermont, and they had all the right arguments. They were winning the arguments in every debate, but still we didn't have a universal equitable healthcare system. We had a healthcare system based on corporate greed and private profit for insurance companies.

We realized that to win a universal healthcare system that treated healthcare as a human right, we needed more than good arguments, we needed to get organized. We did surveys, held human rights hearings, humongous rallies at the statehouse, organized a people's team and a grassroots media team. We built organizing committees in every county of the state, held countless meetings with legislators, turned out in the hundreds to hearings wearing our red T-shirts, and three yeaars later Vermont became the first state in the country to pass a real universal healthcare law.

Through that process we were learning a lot. We learned, we need to be organized to have a voice for regular people, we need to tell our own stories and have our voices heard, and we need to be united not divided. We know that we can't have health without healthy food, a healthy environment, safe affordable housing, jobs with dignity, and education. All our human rights are interconnected. We also know that the next phase of our work on healthcare will be the financing, which is a budget issue. This is why we need a people's budget to make sure our human rights principles are reflected as the state crafts its budget.

For many years , as the budget is created, essential public services, the things we need to live dignified lives--our human rights--are cut. Every year advocacy groups and grassroots organizations go to advocate for their issue--each one has to prove why their funding is more important than all of the other people who are fighting for funding too. But these are false choices--we shouldn't have to pick between heating assistance and funding for early education while corporations have record profits and right here in Vermont the wealthy are wealthier than they have ever been and paying less taxes then the rest of us.

What if, instead of being pitted against each other--the people who are fighting for housing, for healthcare, for education, for a healthy environment, got together to fight for a whole new system where people's fundamentsl rights were ensured Changing the priorities of elected representatives--making public policy that puts people first--is really a matter of changing the balance of power. To succeed, we have to organize enough people to grow enough power. Every one of us must be an organizer who brings our family, our friends, our coworkers, and our neighbors into this movement. Alone, there's not a lot we can do to create change. Together, united, we can have our voices heard and create real democracy.

The fact is that there is plenty of money to take care of all of our needs. The obstacle is that it is not being shared fairly. It is not being raised fairly, and it is not being spent fairly.

This is what the People's Budget Campaign is all about: building real democracy to change the way we think about raising and spending the money to provide the public services that uphold the human rights of our communities.

Who's with me to defend our human rights and a healthy planet?
who's with me to fight for a state budget that prioritizes the needs of our communities and reflects the values of Vermont?
Who's with me to carry on the Poor People's Campaign to end poverty and suffering starting here in our home state?
who''s ready to organize for affordable housing, healthcare, healthy food, transportation, education, childcare, services for disabilities, heating, liviable wage jobs, safe environment, and the end of discrimination?
Who's with me to PUT PEOPLE FIRST?