Vermont Workers Center
Vermont Workers Center is affiliated with Jobs with Justice.
In 1998, a group of low-income workers with Central Vermonters for a Livable Wage officially launched the Vermont Workers Center (VWC) and opened up an office in Barre.
The first project of the VWC was the Vermont Workers' Rights Hotline. Over the years, the hotline has recieved thousands of calls from people who believe they have their rights violated. Through our experiences with the hotline we learned that the best way to improve working conditions is through organizing a union or to demand elected officials change the laws.
We began working with progressive unions and community members to support workers who were organizing, and also to raise the minimum wage as part of the Vermonters For a Livable Wage Campaign. Through this work we also came to realize that many of the problems facing working people transcended the workplace.
Again and again we heard from people struggling with our market-based healthcare system, which treats healthcare as a commodity. For decades Vermont's elected officials had been saying they supported universal healthcare, but that it wasn't politically possible. In 2008, the VWC launched the Healthcare Is A Human Right Campaign, to build a powerful movement and change what was politically possible in Vermont.
From 2008 - 2011, the VWC's membership grew tremendously as people across the state got involved in the campaign and our movement for a real democracy. With hundreds of people knocking on doors, speaking out at forums, and testifying at public hearings, we succeeded in publicizing the depth of the healthcare crisis in Vermont, and forcing elected officials to take action to address it. In 2011 we were successful in passing Act 48, which put Vermont on course towards a universal, publicly-financed healthcare system -- Green Mountain Care -- which treats healthcare as a public good.
But passing the bill into law was just the start. We realized that an equitably financed healthcare system that was accountable to the people it served would require a transformation in how public funds are raised and spent. Following the passage of Act 48, we launched the People's Budget campaign to transform how the budget gets prepared and paid for in our state. In 2012 we were successful in passing a new provision to the state budget statute specifying that public money must be raised and distributed with a focus on people's fundamental needs and towards advancing human dignity and equity.
We also joined with our allies in 2012 to host a People’s Convention for Human Rights in Burlington, drawing over five hundred people from across the state and resulting in the formation of the Vermont Human Rights Council, an alliance of grassroots groups organizing to build a movement for people and the planet. Since 2012 we've worked closely with our labor and HRC partners to build shared movement for people and the planet which recognizes the common root causes of the issues we're up against.
Following Governor Shumlin's 2014 refusal to finance Green Mountain Care, we've been working with community members who are struggling with Vermont Health Connect to highlight the injustices of the current system, and to build momentum around equitable, public healthcare financing as a keystone to addressing the crisis of inequality in our communities. 
As of 2015;
- Kate Kanelstein, Co-Director
- Matt McGrath, Co-Director
- Megan Sheehan, Co-Director
- Shela Linton, Field Organizer
- Heather Pipino, Development Coordinator
- Keith Brunner, Communications Coordinator
Coordinating Committee As of 2015;
- Ellen Schwartz (President)
- Amy Lester (Vice-President)
- Margaret Joyal, Treasurer
- Cecile Reuge (Secretary)
- Leslie Matthews
- Sharon Racusin
- Jonathan Leavitt
- Tim Boyle
- Cathy Thomas
- Jade Walker
- Avery Book
- Nicholas Parrish
Grassroots Global Justice Alliance Coordinating Committee
- Asian Pacific Environmental Network (Mei-ying Williams, Miya Yoshitani
- Black Workers for Justice (Ajamu Dillahunt, Angaza Laughinghouse)
- Causa Justa/Just Cause (Maria Poblet)
- Community to Community Development (Tara Villalba, Edgar Franks)
- East Michigan Environmental Action Council (Diana Copeland, William Copeland)
- Indigenous Environmental Network (Kandi Mossett, Tom Goldtooth)
- Just Transition Alliance (Jose Bravo)
- Miami Workers Center (Marcia Olivo, Trenise Bryant)
- Southwest Workers Union (Diana Lopez)
- Vermont Workers Center (Kate Kanelstein, James Haslam)
Partners and Allies
The Vermont Workers Center is a proud member and serves on the coordinating committee of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, a national alliance of US-based grassroots groups building an agenda for power for working and poor people and communities of color. We are the local Vermont coalition of Jobs with Justice, and an anchor organization of the National Caring Across Generations Campaign. The VWC is also a member of the Climate Justice Alliance, working to forge a just transition away from unsustainable energy towards local living economies.
We collaborate closely with National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI), Put People First! Pennsylvania, Southern Maine Workers' Center, and United Workers in Baltimore on building the Healthcare is a Human Right movement, as well as movement support groups Media Mobilizing Project and the Poverty Initiative/Kairos Center.
In Vermont, we work closely with unions statewide and are an active member of the Vermont Human Rights Council, along with Migrant Justice, 350 Vermont, Rising Tide Vermont, Vermont Center for Independent Living, Green Mountain Self-Advocates, and Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform.