MONTPELIER - Leaders of the Vermont Raise the Wage coalition convened Tuesday in the State House to send lawmakers a clear message: Passage of a $15 minimum wage is a top priority of working Vermonters and it needs to pass this biennium.
Coalition members were joined by several lawmakers who have been instrumental in keeping this legislation moving through the House and Senate, as well as Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman.
Legislative leaders have made the minimum wage increase a priority to pass in this biennium. No bills passed either chamber, however, before the crossover date to ensure passage before adjournment. Instead, the bills will be taken up first thing in January 2018, after lawmakers are briefed by legislative and outside economists on the impacts the legislation will have on workers and businesses.
“In a session dominated by the notion of affordability, it’s a shock that raising the minimum wage hasn’t been at the top of the agenda,” said Sen. Anthony Pollina-Washington (P/D).
Coalition members and allies reiterated the necessity for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, especially in a time of federal budget uncertainty. More than 85,000 Vermonters — most of them women and people of color — would benefit from the wage increase.
“Raising the minimum wage will allow these families to get off state assistance, because staying on state assistance should never be the better option,” said Rachel Kauppila, of coalition member Vermont Works for Women.
Without a strong statewide movement to bring the voices of working Vermonters into this debate, it’s unlikely that this legislation would have become a top priority of the Legislature, a Town Meeting Day ballot item in Burlington, and debated by the state’s top officials. Going forward, the coalition committed to bringing more voices to the debate to ensure passage in 2018, despite Gov. Phil Scott’s objections to raising the minimum wage.
"With our social safety net facing existential threats from a heartless presidential administration and GOP Congress,” said Isaac Grimm, RAD’s political engagement director, “it's more critical now than ever that we act with courage and leadership to provide livable wages and work with dignity to the tens of thousands of workers in our state struggling on less than $15 an hour."