Blog - Rights and Democracy

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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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.


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