The PJC provided staff support for the Vermont Coalition to Save James Bay. This statewide initiative launched a considerable challenge to the electricity contract between the Vermont Joint Owners and Hydro-Quebec. During this time, the PJC also became involved in solidarity work with the Abenaki Nation, drawing links between all Native people’s efforts to preserve their land and heritage. Two conferences, a statewide bike-tour, several Cree and Inuit speaking tours, rallies and demonstrations, and economic impact studies were organized during this time. Also that year, the PJC conducted a capital campaign to renovate and move to our current home at 60 Lake St.
The Center began to work on international trade deals such as GATT and NAFTA. The Vermont Fair Trade Campaign was subsequently created — a statewide coalition of over a dozen labor unions, environmental, farm and social justice groups. This was the first coalition of its kind created in Vermont. Several projects were organized including a Fair Trade Conference, a fact sheet series and farmer and worker solidarity tours. We also participated in the formation of the Vermont Jobs with Justice Coalition – a statewide coalition working to improve all workers’ rights by building solidarity among various interest groups. Internally, the PJC Board conducted its second long-range strategic plan. A Media Committee was created out of this process and began programming the Peace & Justice Review — on public access Channel 15.
In response to our involvement in two community forums on racism that were held in the spring of 1993, the PJC decided to make a commitment to racial justice work in Burlington. We created the Racial Justice & Equity Project (RJEP) and hired an organizer to provide the critical advocacy and technical support needed for people of color in the community. Additional actions and programs were organized by the Vermont Fair Trade Campaign. We published the first edition of the Vermont Grassroots Directory – a listing of activist groups in Vermont.
The PJC’s Board of Directors began meeting regularly on the issue of growth and the organization’s structure. These sessions eventually led to the de-coupling of the Coalition of groups from the physical running of the Center and Store. The RJEP became part of the Old North End Enterprise Community on two social strategies. We organized an anti-racism training for community organizations in the Fall attended by 35 people.
In April, the Center became involved with efforts to oppose the Republican’s Contract On America. We provided crucial staff support, facilities, volunteer coordination and resources that helped make the People’s Conference for Economic Democracy a huge success. Attended by over 2,500 people, the day was filled with speakers, a parade led by Bread & Puppet, voter registration and music.
The RJEP created an anti-racism training program for non-profit organizations and the City of Burlington.
A newly formed Educational Program Committee at the PJC created an impressive series of popular education programs on peace and non-violence. Eighteen courses were offered in total, including an 8 part series which examined important peacemakers in history.
A comprehensive restructuring process lasted throughout the year and culminated in November with a name change (to the Peace & Justice Center) and a new Board of Directors.
The RJEP conducted 15 anti-racism trainings for the staff and boards of Burlington based non-profit organizations and City employees with over 250 people in attendance. We organized a three day film tour of Conjure Women – a performance based documentary of 4 African-American women artists who discuss racism through their work. We also organized a three day training and speaking tour of Paul Kivel, author of Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice.
Under the new program area of the Vermont Economic Justice Project (VEJP), we began work on the Vermont Job Gap Study. We were active with the Interfaith Economic Justice Coalition and with Vermont Citizens for Clean Elections – which won campaign finance reform in the state.
Our Popular Education Series offered 13 classes which were attended by over 200 people in total. We published the second edition of the Vermont Grassroots Directory. And PJC staff played an active role in forming the Champlain Initiative – a county-wide healthy communities project.
We published two phases of the Vermont Job Gap Study that year, testified before committees in the Vermont Legislature; made presentations about the study’s findings to business associations, economic and community development organizations, and non-profit and community groups. We developed a 2-hour popular education workshop on the study’s findings. Dozens of newspaper articles and radio talk shows referenced the study.
The RJEP provided anti-racism training to 13 organizations and all City of Burlington employees. We also conducted a 2-day People’s Institute anti-racism training and a workplace diversity training. We assisted over 150 people of color with problems they faced in the community from employment to transportation to housing. We also conducted and published a Survey and Review of Harassment Policies in Chittenden County Schools. Finally, our RJEP Director participated in two days of testimony held by the US Civil Rights Commission in Vermont on the state of discrimination and harassment of children of color in Vermont schools.
Once again we produced two well attended popular education series on a variety of topics. 1997 also marked the beginning of our Peace & Justice News special series on life-long activists in our community.
Our RJEP Director began working with the state’s Attorney General’s office on ways to strengthen Vermont’s civil rights laws. We also began work with the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity on a Fair Housing Project. The RJEP also began a second round of half-day anti-racism trainings with City of Burlington employees.
The PJC remained very involved with the Champlain Initiative. As a result of our RJEP Director’s involvement on the Steering Committee, the Initiative launched a new focus – diversity in the schools. At its September stakeholder meeting, the Initiative brought in Paul Kivel and Rodney Patterson to facilitate a half-day visioning session. Both men have been used extensively for other RJEP trainings in the area over the past 3 years.
We published two additional phases of the Vermont Job Gap Study. We saw the Study’s credibility and use solidified throughout the state as we conducted more workshops, presentations and radio talk shows on the study’s findings. We organized a conference in June which brought together 175 people from all stakeholder groups to discuss draft policy recommendations for Phase 4. We also began meeting with Vermont Business Roundtable, the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and various state agency personnel to discuss which recommendations we will be able to collaborate and move forward together on. Finally, the PJC launched the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign composed of local livable wage coalitions from around the state. The Campaign will work to develop a viable worker movement statewide, capable of winning significant wage and benefit gains into the next century. As a result of the Study, Burlington and Montpelier passed a local ordinance setting a minimum wage for permanent city employees.
In January, we held a major 20th birthday celebration with over 200 supporters in attendance. We produced an inspiring video that highlights the Center’s activities and accomplishments over the last 20 years. A special 20th anniversary fund helped raise $20,000 and allowed us to hire our first development director.
Our efforts on the livable wage front helped win a 50cent increase in the minimum wage for 15,000 Vermonters and a $60,000 appropriation to conduct a summer Legislative Study on Livable Wages. This additional research will be the foundation of new legislation aimed at improving the standard of living of 60,000 Vermonters who work full time and still cannot meet their basic needs and providing some assistance to Vermont’s small business community.
The Vermont Livable Wage Campaign grew in number and strength. As a result of our increasing network of livable wage campaign members, we turned out 250 folks for a public hearing on the issue held by the Summer Legislative Study Committee. Over 40 people testified, telling their story of what it’s like to earn low wages and giving specific recommendations on how legislators can help.
With the release of the US Civil Rights Commission report on racial harassment in Vermont schools, the Racial Justice & Equity Project was able to expand the public dialogue on this important issue. We continued to provide one-on-one case management for people of color who were discriminated against in some way over the past year. And with the financial support of Verizon, we’ve developed a new job placement service where we assist people of color in finding employment within Vermont businesses.