Update: Justice for Laura, State House Cafeteria Worker Who Faced Retaliation

Laura TyrellThanks to all who supported Laura Tyrell in her struggle for justice! You may recall that Laura is a worker at the Vermont State House cafeteria. Laura was harassed, threatened and ultimately terminated after she exercised her right to freedom of speech and her civic duty giving testimony in support of the bill giving every worker paid sick days.

After learning about her termination, the Vermont Workers' Center (VWC) created an open letter to her employer: The Abbey Group, a private state contractor. In less than 48 hours more than two hundred people signed the letter. Last week representatives of the Workers’ Center and the Vermont State Employees’ Union (VSEA) presented The Abbey Group President and CEO with the letter in a meeting. We demanded that Laura be paid lost wages from her date of termination until she obtains another job, as well as a letter of reference. We also presented The Abbey Group with a letter suggesting that the company adopt a Work With Dignity Code of Conduct, and using human rights principles to frame that Code.

We are happy to report that Laura has since received her check for lost wages and a letter of recommendation. Additionally, The Abbey Group has agreed to review their policies on paid sick days and livable wages for all their workers. 

In a response sent to the VWC concerning the Code of Conduct, The Abbey Group said:  

Livable wages and paid time off is certainly available and applicable to all our full time employees. Part time employees are not afforded this full slate of benefits. We will however, assess this position over the coming months to see what more we can provide. We will certainly try to move forward in this area. Check back with us in the fall to see where we are in this arena. We have to kick the ball around some to get ourselves grounded in this debate in as positive of a direction, as possible.

Too often workers who courageously speak out for workers’ rights, or who are whistleblowers for the public good, receive retaliation and harassment for their efforts. Laura’s brave actions, and the solidarity of hundreds of others who demanded justice and human rights, set a standard which should be applauded, not punished!

Here’s what Laura said after the meeting with owners of The Abbey Group:

I feel like justice was served. Resolutions were made and I got heard. I feel like I did the right thing the whole time. I’m not as scared to stick up for myself and speak or testify ever again. If anybody does feel scared, it’s their right and they are allowed to talk, and if anybody does have a problem with it they can talk to the Workers’ Center.

The fight for paid sick days and work with dignity continues. Check out www.workerscenter.org/paidsickdays and share your story about why everyone has the right to work with dignity and paid sick days.