The Year in People Power: 2019


Wow, what a year it’s been at Rights & Democracy here in Vermont.

2019 was a rebuilding year for RADVT. We brought on Dan Fingas as our organizing director and then Liz Filskov and Betsy McGavisk in June and August respectively. This power trio dove into doing the necessary work to build RAD by launching several new regional chapters to add to the success of our Bennington Chapter.

Now members from Rutland, Essex, and Burlington are also getting together to build people powered movements in their local communities and in 2020, we’ll be expanding further to include Middlebury and hopefully other parts of the state!

Our chapter work is centered around organizational growth – both in terms of public reach and member-donor support – and education on the core issues facing our communities.

We also spent the first several months of 2019 focused intensely on moving forward key legislation that will impact tens of thousands of Vermonters. Through that work we connected our members with our legislative champions and other legislative leaders in the State House to push for livable wages for all, paid family leave, and better protections in the workplace.

In 2019, RAD facilitated the Raise the Wage Campaign and fought for a statewide livable wage starting with $15 an hour by 2024. We also helped to lead the effort to enact Paid Family Leave in Vermont. While neither of these bills passed this year, they were among the most-talked about issues in Montpelier and are on track for passage in the House and Senate by the end of January 2020.

To highlight how workers were getting shortchanged by existing state policies, we held a Nickel and Dimed action at the State House near the end of the session and lifted up the voices of newly elected legislative champions and youth leaders on day one.

We also connected with thousands of Vermonters by, once again, helping to organize the annual Women’s March in Montpelier, and a powerful and historic inaugural Pride Parade in Bennington. We joined with labor unions and other progressive groups to protest the appearance of Koch Brothers-aligned Scott Walker, the former governor of Wisconsin, at a Vermont GOP fundraiser.

As you all know one of the great things that makes RAD different is our commitment to elections and Movement Politics.  2019 was a great year for local elections in Vermont. In 2018, we endorsed 42 candidates and 24 won election, or re-election, including several who flipped previously held Republican seats and helped create a legislative supermajority that, when they all stick together, can override any gubernatorial veto. In addition, 5 out of the current 12 Burlington City Councilors were endorsed and supported by RAD – including the two most recent councilors, former RAD member and staffer Perri Freeman and Jack Hanson.

Other 2019 victories included electing the youngest City Council member in Barre History: Board member and active RAD leader Teddy Waszazak … and ME … to the Mill River Union School Board.

We also held forums in neighboring New Hampshire with presidential candidates where RAD leaders stepped up in a big way— bravely sharing their stories and asking tough, nuanced questions of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

And, of course, our members overwhelmingly voted to endorse the hometown favorite in the presidential primary – Sen. Bernie Sanders. Stay tuned for updates, as we do plan to help interested RAD members get over to New Hampshire’s First-in-the-Nation Primary and help Sanders win big!

Help us keep building this people -powered movement and go into 2020 strong. Please consider making a donation to RAD, or better yet, become a sustaining member. You are the people in people power.