WPTZ | September 8, 2015 | Report by Stewart Ledbetter
Vermont group hopes to capitalize on Bernie Sanders' bid for presidency
Burlington's Labor Day celebration saw the launch of a new grass-roots progressive movement that hopes to unify Vermont's progressive left.
The new group is called Rights and Democracy, which aims to capitalize on Sen. Bernie Sanders' surging campaign for president with a renewed push for many of the same issues in Montpelier.
"Rights and Democracy is about holding our public officials accountable, lifting up the voices of community members and making the issues facing working families in Vermont be heard loud and clear at the Statehouse," explained Isaac Grimm, a field organizer for the group.
Despite sweltering heat, several hundred people turned out Monday at Battery Park for the official launch.
Rights and Democracy will begin organizing for 2016, targeting union activists and those concerned about racial injustice, climate change, universal health care and income inequality.
Many are not satisfied with Democratic leadership in Montpelier.
"I've been frustrated with (their) austerity budget and I've been frustrated by essentially the refusal of this governor to follow through with universal health care, something we've been fighting for for years," said Ellen Schwartz of Brattleboro, who heads the Vermont Workers Center.
Added Mari Cordes, a unionized nurse at University of Vermont Medical Center, "Work is always hard in Montpelier in the Statehouse. I look forward to working with Rights and Democracy to move the political revolution forward."
The group will also push hard for passage of paid sick leave legislation in the upcoming session of the Legislature.
House Speaker Shap Smith, a Democrat now running for governor, said progress, not perfection, should be the test at the Statehouse.
"I'd put our record up against anyone in the United States," Smith said. "We've raised the minimum wage, expanded rights for collective bargaining, made sure people get equal pay for equal work no matter their gender, and we have moved forward on bias-free policing. What we've done is move this state forward."