Vemonters Say "No Thanks!" to GOP Tax Bill

IMG_8183.jpegJust two days before Thanksgiving, Rights & Democracy VT delivered pies to top Vermont officials in protest of the recently passed House bill that will give wealthy donors huge tax breaks while raising the taxes and health care premiums of the middle class.

Corporate tax giveaways will give high-income households and CEOs a lot to celebrate this Thanksgiving, but not everyday Vermonters.

The Tax Policy Center estimates that by 2027 these corporate tax cuts would provide a $14,890 tax break for households with incomes over $1 million and $94,540 for households in the top 0.1 percent (those with incomes over $3.1 million in 2017).

In Vermont, more than 60% of folks in the Green Mountain State will pay MORE in taxes by the year 2027 under the current proposal.

That's a lot of pie for the 1% and nothing but crumbs for the rest of us.

We delivered fresh-baked pies to the offices of Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. Bernie Sanders as well as Rep. Peter Welch to thank them for their efforts to preserve health care coverage and to encourage them to vote against the Senate tax reform bill. We are also urging Gov. Phil Scott to join the delegation in rejecting this tax plan, which relies heavily on cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

"We want to thank our Congressional delegation for leading the resistance to this massive transfer of wealth of the 1% while at the same time putting the costs on the backs of poor and working Vermonters by raising their taxes or stripping them from health care," said James Haslam of Rights & Democracy. "We urge Gov. Phil Scott to join our delegation in opposing these cuts to health care and protecting Vermonters from having their taxes raised only so that the wealthy can further gorge themselves financially."

Continue reading more about the impacts of this proposal, as well as our full letter to Vermont' congressional delegation


Read more

RAD Member Spotlight: Alison Nihart

Rights & Democracy's strength is thanks to the thousands of members who give time, money, and energy to the movement. Among our membership are dozens of leaders who run our county organizing teams, advise our wide array of campaign and policy teams, as well as serve on our board of directors.

Who are these amazing people?

Starting this month, we’re putting a spotlight on these awesome folks and giving them a chance to tell you a bit about themselves, and why they support RAD—either financially or with their energy and expertise.

This month we invite you to learn more about Alison Nihart, who is a member of our Vermont Leadership Committee and is very active in Movement Politics and RAD's Addison County Organizing Team.


RAD: How did you first get involved with RAD - when and why? How has your involvement grown since you first began? What aspect of this work do you most appreciate?

ALISON: I got involved with RAD after I attended a gubernatorial forum in April 2016. I was really impressed by the facilitation of the conversation and the questions posed to the candidates. I decided that I wanted to learn more about whoever the awesome people were who put that together, so I met up with Isaac Grimm [RAD's Political Engagement Director], and was really struck by the prompting questions he asked me about my interest in politics. I had been searching for a place to be my "political home" for a while, and the more I learned about RAD's strategy for grassroots organizing, the more it resonated with my vision for the type of organization I wanted to be a part of.

Read more

Vermont at the Women's Convention

This past weekend, I spent an inspiring few days in Detroit for the Inaugural Women’s Convention.

The message at the Women’s Convention was clear: resistance doesn’t just mean reacting—it also means pushing for our own agenda.

Women must be central to a movement that will make this agenda a reality.

The Women’s March represents a feminism that encompasses issues across economic, racial, environmental and health care justice issue. And, while it is important to be organizing for women’s rights, that looks very different from community to community. At the end of the day, all of these issues—economic justice, social justice, environmental justice, health care justice, racial justice—are gender justice. They are women’s issues. The women’s agenda must encompass the issues facing us and our communities on a daily basis.


Read more

Double Our Power: Help RAD Raise $50,000!


“It is not one person or group of people on the top who are going to make change.
It is grassroots activism, and that is what Rights & Democracy is doing.”
– US Sen. Bernie Sanders


Some exciting news that will help us build a truly independent, grassroots movement in Vermont.


A group of Rights & Democracy donors — Ben Cohen, Barbarina Heyerdahl, and Jerry Greenfield — will match dollar for dollar up to $25,000 in an effort to support RAD’s movement-building work during the 2018 legislative session and election cycle.


Your one-time contribution of $100, $250, or $500 will be doubled between now and the end of the year, and you’ll be helping RAD raise $50,000 to continue building our grassroots movement for political and social change.



In just two years, Rights & Democracy has gone from being a scrappy startup grassroots organization with a handful of key Vermont leaders and staff to a bi-state organization with 12,000 members and a vision to change the world.


Victories: Historic Rallies, Electoral Wins & Holding Politicians Accountable

The year began with the largest single demonstration in Vermont’s history – the Women’s March and Rally – which brought out 20,000 people to Montpelier, the state’s capital. RAD staff and leaders were instrumental in organizing this historic rally.


Our Labor Day celebrations with Bernie Sanders brought 1200 people to one event in Concord, NH and then another 500 people to a first-ever Labor Day rally in White River Junction, VT, just across the border from New Hampshire, and more than 750 people in Middlebury, VT.


Our members are running for political office – and winning, like City Councilor Ali Dieng in Burlington’s New North End – and we are helping to hold our elected officials accountable in both states as well as in Washington, DC. RAD leaders were instrumental in the series of direct actions in Washington DC this summer and fall that numerous, and disastrous, health care repeal bills offered by President Trump and the GOP-led Congress.



Our growth is thanks to a mix of savvy and dedicated staff organizers who–most importantly–work closely with powerful member leaders, numerous member volunteers, as well as members who take action by making calls, showing up to rallies – and donating money to RAD. Whether it’s a monthly sustaining donation or a direct annual contribution, or through our ActBlue account, RAD is building a network of member donors to help fuel lasting political change.


That’s why doubling your contribution between now and the year will help us reach more people and build a lasting grassroots movement for political and social change.

Rural Organizing: The New Path Forward

Founded as a multi-issue and multi-tactical grassroots organizing and movement building project in Vermont and New Hampshire, RAD is using as many tools as it can in the grassroots organizing toolbox to build a people-powered movement for political and economic transformation.


The failure of President Trump to make good on his campaign promises, and the stalling of the GOP’s congressional agenda—to date—is a huge testament to the power of grassroots organizing.  More importantly, however, it provides us with a key lesson for how we can move forward to not only defend against Republican attacks on health care as well as the environment, public education, and the rights of workers, immigrants, women, communities of color and LGBTQ individuals but also offer an alternative political, economic, and social vision.


This summer RAD held events throughout the state to promote a people’s agenda that legislators can get behind when they return to Montpelier in January, and is a step toward helping rural communities rebuild political power.


Developing a “People’s Platform” is a way to unify different grassroots movements, and obviously, this is a tall order with major capacity needs that will not be built overnight, which is why we need your continued support. The Right has effectively funded this grassroots approach to changing public narratives and winning local offices - and with much success.


Our response needs to be as bold, as audacious, and as forward thinking as theirs — but with the intent on bringing people together, not dividing them.


So make your contribution of $25, $25, $100, $250 or $500 and it will be doubled between now and the end of the year. You’ll be supporting our formative grassroots organizing model that is poised to bring about lasting, forceful change in our communities.


Together We Win!

Jessica Early, Elise Greaves, Isaac Grimm, James Haslam, Nate LaGue, Katie McCarty, Emma Schoenberg, Shay Totten

AKA, Team Rights & Democracy VT


WHEN: Sunday, December 10, 1-6PM
Lebanon High School, 195 Hanover St., Lebanon, NH

Join members of Rights & Democracy from across Vermont and New Hampshire for our annual membership assembly and celebration. We will celebrating RAD members for key victories in our states and DC this year and look to the movement organizing that lay ahead for us in 2018 and beyond, including our multi-issue People’s Platform for each state. If you are not a member of Rights & Democracy, but are interested in learning more about becoming  one or if you have child care or accessibility or interpretation needs, contact us at

Nurse & RAD Health Care Organizer to Accompany Sanders on Canadian Fact-Finding Trip

19477467_1981364422082331_4475099313047194604_o.jpgAn RN and lead organizer from Rights & Democracy will be traveling to Canada with US Bernie Sanders to learn how our neighbors to the north provide quality, universal health care while spending about half as much per capita as we do in the US.

Rights & Democracy’s Jessica Early, RN, who heads up RAD’s health care justice organizing, will accompany Sanders and others as observers on the trip. She leaves Friday for the weekend trip (see itinerary below).

On Sunday, Sanders will deliver a speech and discuss health care with Dr. Danielle Martin on what the US can learn from Canada’s health care system. That speech and discussion will be livestreamed on Sanders' Facebook page from 11-noon ET.

“As a nurse practitioner and as Rights & Democracy's Health Care Justice Organizer working to win meaningful health care reform that guarantees access to high-quality health care as a human right, I am so excited to be joining Senator Sanders on this trip to Toronto, Canada to learn about the Canadian health care system first-hand,” said Early.

With President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans’ continuous assault on Americans' health care, now is the ideal time to engage in an exchange with Canadian health professionals working within a publicly funded, universal health care system that can serve as a future model for American health care, Early added.

“I am eager to draw on lessons learned by health care professionals and patients in Canada, to help us move forward with an alternative vision for health care that will serve my patients and patients across America,” said Early.

Despite victories over the past several months in defeating various Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act, the health care fight continues until a system is built upon the principle of health care as a human right which puts patients ahead of private profits. This principle is the foundation of Canadian health care and is the basis for Senator Sanders' Medicare-for-All Act of 2017, Early noted.

The Medicare for All Act of 2017 establishes a national health insurance program called the Universal Medicare Program. Under this legislation, every resident of the United States will receive health insurance through an expanded Medicare program with improved and comprehensive benefits.

Under this bill, Americans will benefit from the freedom and security that comes with finally separating health insurance from employment. As is the case in every other major country, employers would be free to focus on running their businesses rather than spending an enormous amount of time, energy and money trying to provide health insurance to their employees.

Despite so many uninsured and under-insured, the United States spends far more per capita on health care than any other nation. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in 2015, the U.S. spent almost $10,000 per person for health care, while the Canadians spent $4,644, the Germans $5,551, the French $4,600, and the British $4,192 even though all of these other countries guarantee health care to all of their people. Despite this huge expenditure, life expectancy in America is lower than most other industrialized countries and our infant mortality rates are much higher.

The Medicare for All Act of 2017 would ensure that Americans will no longer have to delay or avoid going to the doctor because they can't afford it; that a hospital stay will not bankrupt you or leave you deeply in debt; that you will be able to get the prescription drugs you need at a price you can afford; that middle class families will never have to spend 20 or 30 percent of their incomes on health care; and, that Americans will save billions of dollars a year in medical administrative costs.  

Toronto Trip Details
Saturday: Sanders will tour Women's College Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital and Toronto General Hospital. He will also hold a roundtable conversation with participants including a Canadian doctor, patient, policy maker, hospital administrator and pharmacist.

Sunday: Sanders speech and discussion with Dr. Danielle Martin on what the United States can learn from Canada's health care system.

Where: University of Toronto, Convocation Hall and the speech and discussion will be livestreamed on Sanders' Facebook page.

When: 11 AM – Noon ET

Photo: Jessica Early, RN, at a health care rally in Burlington earlier this year. Photo by Isaac Grimm.

Photo Petition: Tell Congress No Tax Tricks on Working Families to Give Treats to Millionaires!

HC_trick_treat.jpgThis Halloween, it’s not only millions of American kids who will be out trick or treating. Republican members of the House and Senate will be trick or treating, too.


Unfortunately for the American people, they won’t be dressing up and going door-to-door for candy. Instead, they will be in the halls of Congress moving ahead with budget resolutions that trick working families across this country to give treats to the wealthy and corporations.


The House and Senate have both passed budget resolutions that provide the rich and corporations trillions of dollars in tax cuts paid for by gutting Medicaid, Medicare, education, and critical public services. The resolutions establish a framework for legislation to actually implement these tax cuts by defunding programs we care about.


But we can’t allow all the candy—in the form of massive tax breaks—to continue to go to those whose pockets are already overflowing. This Halloween, we will stand together in opposition to the Republican plan that’s a trick for families (cuts to health care) to pay for treats (big tax breaks) for millionaires, billionaires like President Donald Trump, and corporations. 


As part of a national day of Trick or Treat Actions across the country, on Halloween, Tuesday October 31, join our photo petition to reject the Trump/GOP budget plan that slashes funding for Medicaid, Medicare, education, and other vital social safety net programs.


Take a photo of yourself, your friends, and/or your family in your Halloween finest, with the above sign (click here to download and print your own) to demonstrate your opposition to Trump and the Congressional GOP’s trick of the American people!


Then upload your picture to this Facebook event to make your voice heard!



*** Photo Release: Uploading your photo to this Facebook page confers consent to the reproduction and public use of your photo by Rights & Democracy.

Senate Budget Resolution Vote Puts Health Care for Vermonters At Risk

BURLINGTON - The U.S. Senate voted late last evening to approve a Budget Resolution that sets a framework for cuts to federal health care and education as well as tax cuts that mainly benefit corporations and the wealthiest households. The Resolution includes a $1.5 trillion tax cut that will increase the deficit and may force cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education, and other services that families rely on.

We are thankful that in Vermont our Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy voted against the Resolution that could put Medicaid for 200,000 Vermonters  and Medicare for 131, 381 people with disabilities and seniors at risk.

The Senate budget includes $5.8 trillion in cuts to federal spending, including nearly $500 billion from Medicare and $1.3 trillion from Medicaid and other health care programs. Another $650 billion may be cut from income security programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for individuals with disabilities, and tax credits for working families.

Time and time again, the Republicans in the Senate (and the House) have shown that their priority is taking care of the rich and big business, not the vast majority of Americans. They started with trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would have taken health coverage and Medicaid from millions. Failing in that effort, thanks to the resistance mobilized by thousands of Americans, they have now turned to a budget plan that would make even more cuts to health care and other programs—all to give tax breaks to the people who need them least.

We’re so grateful that we can depend on Senators Sanders and Leahy to stand up against cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other programs that families depend on. We will continue to need the Senators’ leadership as the GOP and President Trump move forward on implementing their plan for massive tax breaks for the rich and corporations paid for by cuts to our health care and education.

VT2tg.pngThe Senate budget resolution creates instructions to make these cuts and write legislation with tax breaks that mainly benefit the wealthiest among us based on a framework laid out by President Trump earlier this year. Under the GOP plan, the richest 1% in Vermont would receive about 45.1% of the tax breaks.  These Vermont households are projected to have an income of at least $505,400 next year and the GOP tax framework would give them an average tax cut of $45,250 in 2018, which would increase their income by an average of 3.8 percent, while the poorest 20% of Vermonters would see only 1.8% of the tax breaks under this proposal.

Rights & Democracy stands in opposition to the Trump-GOP tax plan that cuts health care, education, and other key social safety net programs to give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and corporations whose pockets and company coffers are already overflowing.

"Now, more than ever, we must reject a budget passed on the backs of low income folks, working families and America’s shrinking middle class. We must stand together and stand up for the health care and other programs hundreds of thousands of Vermonters depend on," said Jessica Early, RAD's Health Care Justice Organizer.

RAD is asking people to become a Health Care Justice Voter and join the movement to urge Gov. Scott and all our elected officials to fight to protect Vermonters’ health care and invest in the health of our communities for today and for tomorrow.


Don't Rob Medicaid to Benefit Millionaires

ITEPrelease10042017.pngI am a 26-year-old lower income resident of Vermont who recently put herself through graduate school, paying tuition out-of-pocket and struggling to make ends meet while doing so.

I have mild sciatica, mild scoliosis, chronic joint pain, and occasional migraines. Despite needing care for these issues, I could not afford health care premiums for a private insurance plan and so I used to avoid going to the doctor. Fortunately, last year I applied for and gained Medicaid coverage and I was finally able to seek the treatment I needed.

Medicaid has been hugely important to me as it has allowed me to find explanations for pain that I didn't understand, giving me peace of mind and relief I needed to get through grad school. With the professional help I can afford through Medicaid, my issues are being resolved rather than continuing to escalate as I age. I have since graduated and will be transitioning to employer-based coverage at the end of the year, but my story is simply a reminder that people go through periods of their life when they need Medicaid, and to not have that support makes it harder for people to move past those periods.

The current budget proposal being pushed by the Trump administration and Republican Congressional leadership would make massive cuts to Medicaid. According to the Senate Budget Committee Minority Staff, by 2027 Medicaid would see a $1 trillion cut and Medicare would see a $473 billion cut. This would fundamentally change Medicaid as we know it and rob people of a program that gives them access to needed medical services which enable them to lead successful lives. The GOP budget is not only an attack on Medicaid but also on equity and the health of our communities in Vermont and across the country. Vermonters of all affiliations need to unite against this budget that threatens the health and well-being of millions in order to give tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest few.

— Bria Yazic

If you want to get more involved in our health care justice organizing, sign up to be a Health Care Justice Voter!

If you're like Bria and have a story to tell that you'd like to share with us and others, send us a confidential note.

Rights & Democracy Opposes Trump's Executive Orders

With the recent defeat of Graham Cassidy and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal efforts that preceded, we thought the battle to save our health care was won.


Unfortunately, yesterday President Trump demonstrated unequivocally that this battle is far from over—he is directly attacking women, the middle class, and the poor in his effort to strip millions more from having necessary access to health care in order to provide tax breaks for the wealthy and powerful.


Rights & Democracy stands in opposition to Trump and the GOP Congressional leadership’s inhumane and immoral attack on the health care of hundreds of thousands of Vermonters and millions of Americans.


We stand in support of our members of Congress—including this statement from Sen. Patrick Leahy—in their resistance to these proposals and we call on Governor Phil Scott to do the same.


Last night the President announced that he will end Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments that lower costs for more than 6 million people who buy coverage on the exchange. Uncertainty about the future of these CSRs is key reason that many insurers are substantially hiking their rates for 2018—some by more than 20 percent. Some insurers have also left the market. Even Republicans are worried about how this decision will drive up costs and leave millions uninsured.


This would mean more than $12 million in CSR payment cuts to Vermonters, according to Sen. Leahy.


In addition to the elimination of CSR payments, Trump issued a new executive order that allows health association plans to sell watered down health coverage that doesn’t meet current standards under the ACA. This executive order includes provisions like those in the ACA repeal bills that were roundly rejected earlier in the year by both lawmakers and the public. Trump’s order loosens up rules for insurance companies so that they can go back to refusing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, charging them more for their coverage, and selling bogus plans that don’t even include essential health benefits like maternity care, mental health and prescription drugs that are required for plans sold in the ACA marketplaces. These plans could even have lifetime and annual benefit caps.


Waiving ACA protections means these plans can cherry pick young, healthy consumers and pull them out of the existing individual health insurance market, leading to a market dominated by older and sicker people. That means that rates will skyrocket, insurers will flee, and, ultimately, the entire private health insurance market could collapse.


Finally, the Trump Administration has launched a full on assault on women’s reproductive health with a sweeping new rule that eliminates free contraceptive coverage based on any religious or “moral” objections from the employer. This is a significant departure from the existing law, which allowed exemptions for religious employers like churches and Catholic hospitals only. Under the new rule, any employer, not just religious ones, can deny coverage for birth control based on their own personal religious beliefs or “moral” objections.


Through the ACA, employers were required to include no-cost birth control coverage in their health insurance plans. More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of that guarantee – saving them $1.4 billion in 2013 alone. But now these 55 million women could lose access to free contraception if their bosses decide they suddenly have a "moral" objection to paying for it. As a result, millions of American women and families could be left without affordable birth control.


The eliminations of CSR payments, the executive order on health association plans, and the new rule denying contraceptive coverage to millions of women, all make it clear: Trump doesn’t care about the will of the people who have rejected the Republican agenda for health care over the past several months.


Instead of listening to Americans, Trump is charging full-steam ahead with his stated goal of ACA repeal through a political campaign to sabotage the ACA by forcing premium increases, creating instability in the market, actively interfering with the ability of consumers to sign up for coverage, and rolling back the no-cost birth control for 55 million women.


When coupled with the Republican budget proposal working its way through Congress now—which includes massive cuts to Medicaid and further privatizes Medicare—Trump’s sabotage would mean the destruction of our health system as we know it. We will return to the days when being sick could bar you from coverage. We will return to the days when being a woman meant discrimination in the health care system. And we will see Medicaid and Medicare—two programs essential to the quality of life of millions of Americans—irreversibly transformed leading to access and lower quality care.


And what does Trump and his GOP backers in Congress gain from robbing millions of their health care? Huge tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.


Now more than ever, we need to together build a health care system that serves us all.


Call Gov. Phil Scott today at: (802) 828-3333 and ask him to reject his national party’s health care agenda and sign up to be a health care justice voter and join the fight for health care for all in Vermont.


1 Day. 1000 Protesters. 181 Arrest. 1 Final Victory!



This just doesn't get old.

Once again, a grassroots-powered movement defeated a disastrous plan to kick millions off of health care. So, here we are again in what seems like umpteenth time this year to thank our amazing RAD community.

6U8A0678.jpgTo the incredible activists from around the country who descended on Washington, DC this week to shut down the Senate and help to kill the GOP's cynical attempts to take health care from millions of people, including tens of thousands of Vermonters: THANK YOU!

To our very own Rights & Democracy members and allies Mari Cordes, RN, Elizabeth Deutsch, RN, Marit Young, Jim Vires, TW Collins, Drew Peltier, and Aaron Sawyer for trekking to DC to help support direct actions led by National ADAPT, the Center for Popular Democracy, and Housing Works: THANK YOU!

A special thanks to Drew (pictured right), who was one of 181 people arrested this week. Drew is active in our Rights & Democracy Bennington Organizing Team (as is TW Collins who took these amazing photos, Jim, and Aaron, who also serves as the outreach director for the Vermont Democratic Party). In all, more than 400 people were arrested protesting the GOP's assault on health care rights, including several RAD members and staff—some of whom were arrested more than once! (Staffers Elise Greaves and Emma Schoenberg were in DC, too, because they had to appear in court to answer to previous arrest charges.)

To our annual donors and monthly supporters who, along with our national partners, help make our work possible: THANK YOU!

6U8A0494.jpgThe bill’s final demise took place at Monday’s hastily organized Senate committee hearing, which was disrupted by throngs of protesters whose numbers approached 1,000. At the very front of the line, having waited since dawn, were hundreds of disabled individuals from ADAPT and hundreds more from the birddogger network. Fewer than 20 people from the general public were allowed into the Senate hearing room. Even so, the hearing was interrupted from the outset by the small group that did manage to get in, “No cuts to Medicaid. Save our liberty!” This chant immediately triggered simultaneous protests by the masses locked outside the hearing room. Their chants of “Kill the bill, don’t kill us!” rocked the entire building, and it took more than three hours to arrest and remove all of them. Collectively, Monday’s protests resulted in 181 arrests.

With the bill’s failure, Republicans have lost their last best chance to repeal ACA, marking the end of an immediate threat to the health law, and dealing yet another blow to the Trump Administration’s agenda. Tuesday’s victory is the latest in a series of healthcare activist wins to protect ACA. The GOP has attempted to ram through various versions of TrumpCare since early spring, but has failed in the face of steep opposition from constituents in every state. With this win, the activists are now pushing hard for Congress to quickly pass a package of bipartisan fixes to the ACA, urging members of the Senate HELP Committee to introduce a bill in the coming week, as well as supporting renewed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and community health centers—vital programs which expire soon.

So, we know that they'll be back again. And, we'll be ready and waiting to greet and defeat the next bill whenever it comes back to life.

Until we embark to DC again, consider taking these simple actions here at home:

Sign up to be a RAD Health Care Justice Voter to help move forward a vision for universal health care in Vermont.
• Text "Health" to (802) 881-0020 to be part of our RAD Rapid Responders network for Health Care Justice.
• Come to Winning the Fight for Universal Health Care: A Talk with Tim Faust (in Burlington, Oct. 7, 4-6 PM). Click for details.

All photos by TW Collins


get updates