A number of people have asked me whether and, if so, when I’d get back to my Morning Pete Postings. So, let me answer that question and, in doing so, explain why I’ve been pretty silent since mid-March when we left for a month long trip to China, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
Basically, over the past 2 months, I’ve been absorbed with time-consuming personal & family affairs and local political activity. The former, sometimes referred to as “life interferes,” is what prevents many people from devoting much time to the latter. It is also one of the main reasons that so few Americans vote or attend local meetings or have the time to devote to really understanding issues that may affect them.
For the working-poor, especially people who are struggling to get a college degree and/or job certification while supporting a family, this is especially true. Yet, it is a fact that too many Republican politicians refuse to acknowledge and that too many populist Trump supporters have been blinded to by their fears of their own vulnerability to the myriad demands of life.
Here in Vermont, we are fortunate to have elected representatives (Senators Sanders and Leahy, Representative Welch, and a legislature both houses of which are controlled by Democrats and Progressives) who, by and large, are concerned with the well-being of the most vulnerable in our state. Even our Republican Governor and a number of other elected Republican officials (especially at the local town level) are moderates on most such issues .
Nevertheless, there is much that could be improved in Vermont, and because our state is so small, we have a unique opportunity to affect change here relatively quickly and, in doing so, perhaps act as an inspiration to people in other states.
Thus, over the past several months, my wife (Therese Mageau) and I have been directly involved in a number of actions with several different, but closely coordinated Vermont organizations, including Rights and Democracy (RAD), a Vermont and New Hampshire-based, multi-issue, grassroots organization, “building a political movement, based on the values of our communities.” Through RAD, we have been involved in the following activities:
- Migrant Justice, marching 13 miles from the State House in Montpelier to Ben & Jerry's Headquarters for “Milk with Dignity,” a campaign being led by Vermont-based Migrant Justice, to hold Ben & Jerry’s accountable to implement the ground-breaking agreement they previously signed, requiring their suppliers to provide a living wage and humane living and work conditions for their dairy workers. The goal is that implementation of this agreement may, in turn, serve as a model for other migrant workers around the country in a wide range of agricultural sectors.
- Health Care, supporting the Vermont Workers’ Center, Planned Parenthood, and Vermont Health Care for All in pressing for a single-payer health care system in Vermont, while at the same time opposing the national Republican effort to deprive tens of millions of the most vulnerable in our country to the right to have adequate health care.
- Racial Justice, working with Vermont-based Justice for All to to address issues of systemic and institutional racism in Vermont with a specific focus on bias-free policing in Vermont through implementation of the recently signed bill (H. 308) establishing a Racial Justice Oversight Board. This may seem odd to anyone who knows that Vermont has a relatively small, non-white population, but, in fact, Vermont has one of the highest per-capita rates of police stops, arrests and incarceration of non-whites in the country.
- Economic Justice, working as part of a broad-coalition of organizations, pressing for $15 minimum wage along with paid family and medical leave legislation, mobilizing against “Right to Work” union-busting legislation, and preventing worker misclassification (e.g., Walmart et al classifying people as part-time or outside contractors in order to avoid paying for benefits, unemployment taxes, and disability insurance).
- Environmental Justice, a RAD initiative to develop “an open, democratic approach to creating sustainable, livable communities that give residents a greater say in determining their future.” In Vermont and New Hampshire, we are already experiencing the divisiveness of wind generator and solar farm installations by corporate energy companies, pitting neighbor against neighbor, while the large energy companies reap the profits.
- Criminal Justice Reform, another RAD initiative, “to engage in political campaigns against elected DAs who send people to prison rather than utilizing community reparation and rehabilitation.” This, again, may serve as an inspiration to other states around our country, which has the highest rate of incarceration per capita in the world.
All politics is local.