Burlington, VT – Over 500 people gathered at Battery Park in Burlington today for the Labor Day celebration and launch of Rights & Democracy, a new organization seeking to further solidify the relationships between the labor and climate movements to influence the 2016 elections and beyond. Energy was high, as Vermonters rallied to bring a “political revolution” to the state. Guest speakers and performers included singer Myra Flynn, The Bow Thayer Band, Chadwick Stokes of the band Dispatch, and Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s. For a full list of performers and speakers, see radvt.org.
Michelle Salvador, President of the Vermont State Employees’ Association, expressed frustration and hope, “I believe Vermont can provide access to quality affordable health care, ensure wages that keep Vermonters out of poverty, and create good jobs that help tackle the climate crisis. I’ve joined Rights & Democracy as the Chair of the Board because I know that only by working together will we make these strides”.
Rights & Democracy brings together advisors and board members from a wide array of advocacy backgrounds. Mari Cordes, a registered nurse and Vice President of Healthcare for AFT-Vermont, expressed urgency, “I chose to become a founding advisor with Rights & Democracy because we’re at a critical juncture. I love that so many people-oriented campaigns and organizations are coming together through this new organization to bring a political revolution to Vermont”.
Other notable labor advisors and board members include James Haslam, Executive Director of Rights & Democracy and former Executive Director of the Vermont Workers’ Center, Ben Johnson, President of the Vermont AFL-CIO, Traven Leyshon, President of the Green Mountain Labor Council, and Felicia Kornbluh, President of United Academics. This commitment to building strategy together will undoubtedly bring additional strength to the movements.
Climate leaders also serve a prominent role in the ranks of Rights & Democracy. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and advisor to R&D, is grateful the organization is seeking to further solidify the relationship between the climate and labor movments, “The link between environmental justice and social justice is crucial, and one that so many Vermonters feel instinctively. That’s why I’m so grateful for this new venture!” he said.
The crowd showed a hunger for this intersectional approach to problem-solving, and we can certainly expect an interesting election season as Vermont’s progressives organize and build.