Rights & Democracy Endorses in Burlington Elections

The results are in!

Thanks to the dozens of Rights & Democracy (RAD) members who took the time to vote last week in our second round of Burlington endorsements for candidates running for office on Town Meeting Day.

In late December, members elected to endorse Independent Carina Driscoll for Mayor and also ratified our Burlington People’s Platform.

Last week members weighed in on a number of City Council and School Board races. Here are the results:

  • In the contested Ward 3 City Council race, RAD members voted to endorse Progressive Brian Pine over Independent James Lockridge and Democrat Lizzie Haskell. Pine won with 81% of the vote. Lockridge earned 19% of the vote. Haskell did not receive any votes.
  • In the contested Ward 5 School Board race, RAD members voted to endorse Nicole Twohig over Mike Fisher by a 67-33% vote.

RAD_endorsed_logo.pngRAD members also endorsed several other candidates running for office in March. They are:

Congratulations to the candidates (we’ve linked to their campaign pages so you can check them out). And, special thanks to the member leaders of RAD’s Movement Politics Team , especially Burlington leaders Laura Mistretta and Grant Taylor who interviewed all of the candidates, and were supported by members Dustin Tanner and Alison Nihart.

Raise Your Voices to Raise Wages in Vermont

MinWage_BenefitsVT.pngThis legislative session we can win a $15 minimum wage, but only if we stand up and make our voices heard.

Sign up to join your neighbors at a public hearing in support of raising the minimum wage on January 25th at the State House, from 5:30 - 8PM in Room 11.

RSVP on Facebook and invite your friends!

We are in for a serious fight this session. The big business lobby will be pushing back hard against the Vermont Raise the Wage Campaign, threatening dire economic consequences if we bring the minimum wage up to a livable wage.  But we know we are on the right side of this fight, and we know all too well that tens of thousands of Vermonters are struggling to get by on less than $15 an hour, and of those:

  • 88 percent are adults, 56 percent are women, 59 percent work full time, and one in five are parents.
  • Our country's structural racism is evident in low-wage work, too. Almost 60 percent of African Americans in Vermont earn less than $15 an hour.
  • Inadequate wages are also impacting too many young children in our state. More than 43,000 Vermont children live in a household supported by someone earning less than $15 per hour, and nearly 30,000 children live in a household supported by someone earning less than $12 per hour.

It's time that we do something direct and meaningful to improve the lives of these Vermonters while at the same time strengthening our local economies and tackling the massive inequality that's holding back too many of our neighbors.

Next Thursday is a critical moment to show our legislators that Vermont stands with our lowest paid workers, and that the time for livable wages is now!


If you have a story to share please let us know when you fill out the form and we can help you prepare your testimony.

You can even share your story if you cannot come in person but want someone to read your testimony for you at the hearing.

More than 80,000 low paid Vermonters are counting on you now and in the coming months. Thank you for standing up against poverty and inequality.

Share this great Rutland Herald and Times Argus editorial supporting a $15 an hour minimum wage with your legislator!

Rights & Democracy's Whole Movement Approach to Social Change

We started Rights & Democracy in 2015 as a multi-issue and multi-tactical grassroots organizing and movement building project in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Many of us had been part of the many exciting single-issue and single constituency organizing efforts that have made progress, but have not been able to realize their goals because of the larger issues of who is holding political power. We often felt like we were fighting for social justice while having one, or even two, arms tied behind our backs. We started by asking how we could build enough people power to win and our goal became to use all the tools in social change toolbox to build a powerful peoples’ movement for political and economic transformation. The idea of a “whole movement” approach is to aim to be comprehensive in our undertaking of realizing change, by making something first possible, then creating a political mandate around a policy, winning the policy, and then implementing it making it a reality.  

16299827_1906245109594263_7981089464984180557_o.jpgWe see ourselves as working in an exciting historical period where we can draw from the best practices of traditional labor, political and community organizing and leadership development methods from Alinksy, Ganz, People’s Action, Center For Popular Democracy, Momentum, and potential candidate training programs such as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.  We also believe there is much to learn from the extraordinarily successful distributed organizing tactics used by Black Lives Matter, Indivisible, Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, Our Revolution, and the Women’s March.  These movement organizations give us a glimpse of what is possible, but we also know that no one has quite figured out a strategy for the successful political transformation on the left which is why the right wing establishment is in power nationally and in the vast majority of state houses in this country.

So we know we have our work cut out for us. Reactionary forces have exploited cultural resentment, racial anxiety, and racism to pit Americans against one another, maintain corporate dominance, and perpetuate structural inequality.

Our organizing opportunity lies in political education, shifting the public narrative, and building an agenda that directly confronts racial animus and divisive politics by promoting interdependence, dismantling systems of structural oppression, and building an economy that puts people and the planet before profits.  We believe the way we do that is build durable, long-lasting grassroots movement organizations and infrastructure that is invested in this for the long haul. RAD is exploring how to do this with our partners in two rural states for the sake of our communities, but also consciously situated in a national movement where we can receive and share lessons with the broader movement.

In both Vermont and New Hampshire, this started by receiving grants to pay for field canvassers on issue campaigns as a way to get off the ground.  However, our goal from the start was an approach of building grassroots organization that used a full range of tactics for social change.

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Rights & Democracy Endorses Carina Driscoll for Burlington Mayor

Rights & Democracy members have voted to endorse Carina Driscoll, independent candidate for Burlington mayor.

Driscoll was the clear favorite among the active, voting Rights & Democracy members in Burlington, earning 63 percent of the vote to independent Infinite Culcleasure’s 33 percent of the vote, who had also sought RAD’s endorsement. Mayor Miro Weinberger, who did not seek RAD’s endorsement, received two write-in votes.

Carina-40.jpg"I am very pleased that as a group of voters we have chosen to endorse Carina Driscoll for Mayor of Burlington. Her previous experience on the Burlington School Board, Burlington City Council, as a Vermont State Representative, and as a business owner prepares her very well to manage our city departments and employees. She also has a proven track record of working for social justice and environmental conservation," said Grant Taylor, an active Burlington RAD member and leader who took part in key one-on-one candidate interviews.

Before voting, members had a chance to review candidate questionnaires submitted by Driscoll and Culcleasure, as well as watch a livestream of member-led, one-on-one interviews with the candidates (or watch a recording of those interviews).

This endorsement process represented a new approach for Rights & Democracy by opening up the decision to through an open, member-led, democratic process. Previous endorsements came from a smaller group of active member leaders.

"I had a great time participating in the Rights & Democracy endorsement process. I found it incredible that we were able to include over 200 RAD members to make the decision for the endorsement," said Taylor. "This has increased the democratic involvement in our endorsement process as an organization, and that is what we are all about."

In the questionnaires and the interviews, candidates were asked about their support of the Burlington People’s Platform, an effort to unify our shared values and vision for a healthier and more inclusive Burlington that lifts up ALL voices and people. These issues aim to break down structural oppression and create a society that empowers all Queen City residents.

For three decades, Burlington was at the forefront of municipally-led activism that put people and the planet before short-term profits. City officials partnered with nonprofit organizations, citizens, and employee-owned companies and cooperatives to build a resilient local economy that has become a model for other communities around the country. In the wake of several political and economic shake-ups in the mid-2000s, a pro-privatization, pro-development agenda has taken hold in the Queen City. This culminated with the election of Democratic mayor Miro Weinberger in 2012 who, despite promises to live up to the legacy of his predecessors, has undermined citizen input and collaboration, walked back Burlington’s commitments to lower- and middle-income families, and has abandoned our city's core value of placing people at the center of policy decisions.

The People’s Platform, and this year’s two strong mayoral challengers, makes it clear that a growing majority seek to return Burlington to its core values and enact a clearer vision of the future that includes everyone in our community.

We Stand in Opposition to this Immoral Tax Bill


Our Statement

Rights & Democracy stands in opposition to the immoral tax bill passed today by the US Congress which gives huge tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest Americans, while leaving low- and middle-income folks out in the cold.

Today, Republicans in Congress implemented an historic transfer of wealth and power for the sole purpose of enriching their donors, corporations, and Wall Street elite while widening an already massive income gap. This bill moves our country closer to an oligarchy, where only the wealthy will be able to profit from our economy, access health care, education, retirement savings, and have a voice in our democracy.

This bill’s passage means more money in the pockets of wealthy Americans—like President Donald Trump and many of his donors—which will be paid for by an impending assault on this country’s social safety net, with billions in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

We will continue to fight back against this disastrous policy, and thwart attacks on the public programs that enable millions of people to meet their most basic needs—needs that cannot be met on the wages that corporations have suppressed for decades.

As a grassroots organization committed to economic, social, racial, health care, and environmental justice, we believe this tax package is a direct threat to the sustainable, equitable, and healthy communities we are helping to build in Vermont and New Hampshire.

We are committed to fighting the fallout from this bill at the local, state, and national level and, in 2018, we will show Republicans that robbing from working people to give to their wealthy donors will cost them at the ballot box.

Join us in this fight!

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The People of Vermont & New Hampshire Can Change the World


I’m please to report that our vision of how a movement for Rights & Democracy (RAD) in Vermont and New Hampshire can change the world is becoming reality.


I wanted to let you know that together we are creating change that not only impacts the lives of people in our community, but increasingly our country and the world.


We are only able to do this work if we are supported by the people who believe in the need for this change. We were given an extraordinary opportunity where some of our major supporters said they would match dollar for dollar all the small gifts (up to a total of $25,000) that we received from now until the end of the year.


Thanks to everyone who has risen to meet this challenge, we only have $3000 more to raise hit our mark!


Can you give $27, $50, or $100 to help us meet our goal?

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Gov. Phil Scott: Extend ACA Enrollment in Vermont

In a letter to Gov. Phil Scott and Agency of Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille today, Rights & Democracy called for Vermont to extend the ACA enrollment period beyond Friday's deadline.

Of the 12 state-based exchanges, Vermont and Idaho are the only two in the United States that has not extended the deadline.

Below is a copy of the letter sent to this afternoon by Jessica Early, RN, the Health Care Justice Organizer for Rights & Democracy.


Governor Phil Scott

Al Gobeille, Secretary, Agency of Human Services

December 14, 2017


Gov. Scott and Secretary Gobeille,

Right & Democracy requests that you extend the deadline for enrollment or plan change in Vermont Health Connect (VHC) to beyond the federal deadline of December 15, 2017.

Nationally, open enrollment for 2018 coverage began on November 1, 2017  for individuals and families, but of the 12 states with state-based insurance exchanges, only Idaho and Vermont have yet to extend the enrollment period during which people can select coverage for next year.

State officials say that nearly 27,000 people have signed up for insurance coverage through the state exchange. That’s at least 1,000 fewer people from last year’s enrollment period; a drop that is likely the result of a shorter enrollment period — from three months to six weeks.

Extending the enrollment period allows more uninsured or underinsured Vermonters to gain needed health care coverage by signing up for or switching to a VHC plan. It also provides more time for those who need to renew their coverage to pick the plan that is best for them.

At a time when President Donald Trump and the GOP-led Congress have tried to undermine access to coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it’s essential that Vermont provide its residents with more—not fewer—opportunities to gain access to insurance coverage.

Access to health care is fundamentally an issue of justice and, while we have a long way to go beyond the ACA to win health care as a publicly funded human right for all, we must support people’s ability to get insurance in our existing system while we simultaneously push to create a system with greater access, quality, and equity.

Governor Scott and Secretary Gobeille: we hope that you'll stand with Vermonters by prioritizing and protecting access to health insurance, and take action today to ensure that every Vermonter who wants to enroll in VHC can do so.

Jessica Early, RN, Health Care Justice Organizer
Rights & Democracy

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


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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.

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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.


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