Honoring Peg Franzen: A Human Rights Hero

Honoring Peg Franzen: A Human Rights Hero

Peg at May DayAll of us at the Vermont Workers’ Center are deeply saddened by the death of Peg Franzen, a fierce fighter for human rights and a pillar of social justice. Peg passed away on the evening of Saturday, November 9th, shortly after our 15th Anniversary Celebration. We know Peg’s spirit flew over the Old Labor Hall to wish us well on the journey ahead. In her final days she asked us all to carry on the movement for universal healthcare and human rights in this country – and not forget to include more brass bands in our movement! Peg was surrounded by loving family and friends in her final days, and received the messages sent to her from the many people she touched in her incredible life.

Watch our Peg here, in a new video courtesy of the National Economic & Social Rights Initiative. 

Peg’s legacy is enormous. Her world-changing accomplishments have inspired countless movement builders across generations to take up the struggle for human rights. She was a key leader of the VWC and the Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign over the last decade — a driving force in the push for universal healthcare in Vermont. When Peg joined the VWC in 2002, she began working on our Workers’ Rights Hotline. She served on the Worker’s Center’s Coordinating Committee as an At-Large member, Treasurer, and served two terms as President from 2009 - 2012. Under Peg’s leadership as President, the VWC experienced explosive growth in statewide capacity and membership, and the VWC has now become a national leader in grassroots human rights and workers’ rights people’s movements.

Click to watch video of PegAnyone who met Peg was touched by her commitment, generosity, and humor. Peg was more than a recognizable face and powerful voice within the State House. She acted as the eyes and ears of the VWC’s People’s Team, helping lead other members who would come to committee meetings to report back to members of the campaign. Since its creation in 2011 as a result of Vermont’s breakthrough universal healthcare law, Peg served on the Advisory Committee of the Green Mountain Care Board, the group tasked with designing Green Mountain Care.

Peg had a long career working for social justice before joining the Workers’ Center.  She worked for disability rights, and as an economic and social justice organizer for over 30 years. In 1979, Peg co-founded the Vermont Center for Independent Living (VCIL), which has since grown to a statewide organization with offices and members across Vermont fighting for disability rights. She also co-founded the Peace & Justice Center in 1977. When she was working for the Committee for Temporary Shelter in 1989, Peg started the COTS Walk, which now raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for the state’s largest homeless shelter.

Her death is not only a tragic loss for her beloved family and friends, but for the human rights movement as a whole. Peg showed what it is to be a leader in every sense of the word. The amount of wisdom, nurturing support, vision, love, and great laughs she gave to our movement, and to so many of us, was tremendous. She demonstrated how to be a committed leader with a vision of how we can change the world, and how to balance that with living life well and cherishing those she loved. Peg would always remind us of how “awesome” we were.

Peg and birthday cake at 2010 Membership AssemblyPlease join us for two events honoring Peg Franzen’s legacy. On December 10th, Human Rights Day, Peg will be honored by the National Economic & Social Rights Initiative and the Poverty Initiative for her leadership in building the human right to healthcare movement in Vermont, which has served as a model for other states sparking new aligned grassroots campaigns in Maryland, Maine, Pennsylvania and Oregon. This event will be held from 7-9pm at the Church Center for the United Nations, 777 United Nations Plaza, in New York City.

On Sunday, December 15th, there will be a celebration of Peg’s life at the Old Labor Hall in Barre, Vermont, beginning at 1pm.  We hope you can attend this special event to lift up her legacy, honor her leadership, and pay tribute to her unwavering commitment to justice.

To RSVP to either event, please click here.