Leslie Matthews |
January 10th, 2013
Yesterday at the start of the 2013 legislative session, members of Put People First gathered in Montpelier at the Statehouse to remind our legislators of the people’s needs, and demand that all our human rights be put first this legislative session. We delivered this message by holding a press conference and rally in a packed room at the Statehouse. People came from all across the state, representing all the Put People First member organizations, in order to call for a state government that puts people and the planet first. As the Vermont Workers Center (VWC) president Mary Gerisch said in her speech during the press conference, “We are united in struggle.”
Check out footage of the rally from our friends at CCTV
Exceeding expectations, the conference room was filled to capacity and people spilled into the halls wearing colored shirts and holding signs making a powerful statement on this first day of this year’s legislative session. During the rally and press conference a large red banner stating “One Movement for People and the Planet” was held high behind each speaker representing various organizations, attached with postcards that individuals wrote to their legislators. These bright yellow postcards were stacked on tables in the front of the room creating heaps of thousands of postcards. The postcards have been collected over the course of the year, and highlight the particular legislative focus for Put People First this year--healthcare as a human right, a people’s budget, the right to organize for all workers, freedom of movement and driver’s licenses for all, support for people with disabilities, and bold action for a healthy environment and a livable planet.
At the conclusion of the rally, we had a brief lunch and then carried this notion of democratic collective action into an educational panel to better understand each front of struggle for Put People First in the legislature this session. The panel consisted of a member from Vermont Workers' Center's Healthcare Is a Human Right & People's Budget Campaigns, Green Mountain Self-Advocates, Migrant Justice, AFSCME Vermont Home Care United, Rising Tide Vermont.
Panelists described the specifics of the legislative fights this session, and the legislative victories we will be building towards. Participants were able to practice what it will be like to talk with legislators on the many pieces of legislation, and how to connect each struggle to our vision of human rights and dignity for every person in Vermont.
Next we broke into two groups with a focus on understanding legislative processes and the
layout of the Statehouse. One group learned in an educational workshop about the makeup of our state government and the complex and lengthy process involved in passing a bill into law, while the other group went on a “People’s Tour” of the state house, with an emphasis on a description of the work of the People’s Team as a continual presence in the state house. The People’s Team is Put People First’s answers to professional lobbyists--our members come to the Statehouse to be the eyes and ears of the Campaign by sitting in on hearings and committee meetings. Some members of the People’s Team only come one time a session, while other people are there every day. The People’s Team also reports back to our members, so there is a continual flow of information on what is going on. As Sarah Weintraub of the VWC said during the workshop, “This is the People’s House!” Only through educating ourselves regarding governmental processes and through grassroots collective organizing can we win a better Vermont. It’s safe to say that we all left the capital today with vital information and are a more solidified force ready to take action.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the People’s Team, contact sandy(at)workerscenter.org
To see more photos from the day, check out our flickr page
Put People First includes 350 Vermont, Green Mountain Self-Advocates, Migrant Justice, Rising Tide Vermont, United Professionals of Vermont/AFT, Vermont Center for Independent Living, VT Early Educators United/AFT, VT Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals AFT, Vermont Workers’ Center, and Voices for Vermont Children. The Vermont Workers’ Center coordinates Put People First.