Rights and Democracy group hosts cookout to talk about history of Labor Day

Bennington Banner - September 5, 2016

Tom Haley of the Rights and Democracy group reads a timeline of the history of labor movements. (makayla mcgeeney — bennington banner)

BENNINGTON — More than 30 people gathered at the St. Peter's Episcopal Church lawn on Monday to have a cookout and speak out on issues in the workplace in honor of Labor Day.

State Rep. Kiah Morris, D-Bennington 2-2, and John Moran, a Democratic candidate for the Windham-Bennington state representative seat, both spoke, as well as members of the Rights and Democracy group who hosted the event. The group members sported green T-shirts with the group name on the front and "together we win" on the back. 

Moran — who worked with Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — noted that a revolution is necessary even though it's 40 years too late.

"One of the key things we're talking about...our slogan is $15 an hour," he said. "We absolutely need that. We need a livable wage. I put a bill in for $15 years ago. It's not that we need a livable wage for working Vermonters, we need a livable income for all Vermonters. For those on disability. They need to have a livable wage. Senior citizens, and workers. We need to broaden that concept."

He continued with references to the Declaration of Independence and "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

"If the rights are not happening in a normal process in the economic system, then it's our responsibility as a government to make sure it does," he said.

Morris shared a story about an African American male who had been searching for a job for more than a year. When he finally secured a retail position, he experienced a moment when a customer chose not to be checked out by him. 

"This is the worst thing I ever heard of. These are the working conditions people are in right now," Morris said. "The labor movement has given a huge opportunity for us to be able to directly impact what's happening in the work environment."

Other members and residents spoke on personal experiences after the representatives talked.

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