Burlington, VT – After a three and a half year campaign, Burlington school food service and custodial worker of AFSCME Local 1343 won an agreement that will bring its all of its members up to a livable wage by the end of the contract. This agreement is being celebrated as a ground-breaking victory. This is the second livable wage victory in less then a year, last fall the Burlington para-educators had the first livable wage victory in the Burlington Schools.
Speech by Erika Simard at the Vermont Workers' Center dinner
April 27, 2008
Old Labor Hall, Barre, VT
Hello, thanks for joining us here tonight. Even though I feel I’ve told my story a thousand times, I will continue to tell it until I make a difference. I started at Specialty Filaments in 1983 at the age of 18. As a union member, I had good pay and excellent benefits. Even though to an 18 year old, the only benefit that was worthy was my vacation time, the rest made up the benefit package. I made a lot of friends and I became pretty vocal on policies and procedures, but it wasn’t until the mid 90’s that I decided I wanted to become an active member and I joined the executive board. Over the years we became a really strong, active union, I worked my way up and I floated between Vice President and President a few times. In 2001, after fighting and winning a good contract, and feeling like I was on top of the world, I had a heart attack, I was 36 years old. At that point I was thankful for my health insurance; it’s funny how our views change as we age.
Four VWC leaders and staff attended the US Human Rights Network's 2008 National Conference in Chicago this past weekend. They learned from and networked with others around the country who are applying international human rights standards to the domestic context in the US, and will be bringing back that knowledge to help lead upcoming VWC campaigns around Housing is a Human Right, Healthcare is a Human Right, and organizing low-wage workers. Below is an account by one of the delegates: