A new coalition in Vermont aims to unify grassroots work on racial, economic and environmental justice policies.
Vermont Renews was launched last week by advocates and legislators who support action on social justice and environmental policies. It is currently comprised of nine organizations including labor, racial justice and environmental advocates.
Rights and Democracy Movement Politics Director Kiah Morris is a member of the Vermont Commission on Women. She hosted the virtual launch of Vermont Renews. “Our current systems are deeply dysfunctional, rooted in historical oppressions and fragile. And when those fragile systems break it is the Vermonters who have been systemically kept out of the places of power that are the most impacted: Abenaki and indigenous persons, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA ( Outright Action International: LGBTQIA – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual and/or Ally) individuals, individuals with disabilities, senior citizens, New Americans and our migrant community, our youth and our young adults, our poor and our working poor are the ones who carry the weight of policies of systems gone wrong.”
The Renew New England Alliance was formed last year. Morris said this is the formal launch of Vermont’s participation in the coalition. “Vermont Renews is a new and growing coalition of leading grassroots organizations including groups like Justice for All, 350 VT, Vermont AFL-CIO, Sunrise, NOFA, Community Action Works, Champlain Valley DSA, Migrant Justice and so many more. And we’ve come together to address our state’s overlapping crises: mass unemployment, racial injustice, the coronavirus pandemic and climate change. We believe strongly that any solutions that are proposed should be designed to help heal and restore our communities as an intentional priority rather than a hopeful aspiration of a trickle down approach.”
Morris says while there are numerous polices to address, they plan to focus on three areas: green housing retrofits; food justice and green justice zones, and each will target inequities faced by low income people and people of color. Vermont AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Danielle Bombardier said each priority also calls for job guarantees. “The policies call for investment in the working people of Vermont. The jobs guarantee is built into every solution focusing on good union jobs with adequate pay and benefits. Investments in our infrastructure will provide hundreds, if not thousands, of union jobs in construction, transportation and maintenance. Together we will create more jobs.”
In Vermont, 57 elected officials have agreed to support the initiative. Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, a Democrat, says the legislative session faces numerous issues with a backdrop of an economic emergency brought about by the global pandemic. “Every night thousands of Vermonters and folks across New England are going to bed worried about hunger. They’re worried about paying rent, about losing their housing. So we have to continue the work that we’ve done on child care and broadband, on affordable housing, on food security. We have to build on earlier important work we’ve done on workforce development. How do we move towards guaranteeing jobs? We’ll build on the good work we did on the climate crisis with the passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act and keep focusing on areas of transportation and home heating and weatherization.”
People’s Action is based in Washington D.C. Homes Guarantee Campaign Director Tara Raghuveer says groups across the country are forming similar coalitions. “As this coalition in Vermont fights for a statewide jobs guarantee and tackles mass unemployment, economic and racial inequities, COVID and climate change this same fight is being waged by partners in states across the country and at the national level.”