By Marguerite Jill Dye
MIDDLEBURY—About 500 crowded onto the Middlebury Green to hear Senator Bernie Sanders and friends speak about labor issues, education, health and child care, discrimination, and the importance of the upcoming elections in Vermont and the nation.
The annual Labor Day Rally in Middlebury followed a similar rally in White River Junction and annual AFL-CIO breakfast in New Hampshire.
Sanders spoke to Vermont’s workforce where “folks are working two or three jobs to put food on the table and pay bills,” he said. “The reality is that the average American worker is still seeing a decline in his and her wages. People continue to work longer hours for low wages.”
Sanders criticized Jeff Bezos the CEO of Amazon, whose “wealth is increasing by $250 million every single day, while he pays thousands of his workers wages that are so low that they are forced to go on food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing,” Sanders said.
Other Vermont Democrats included Rep. Peter Welch, Lt. Gov. Dave Zuckerman, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist who also shared an economic message. “The working class hasn’t received a real raise since the early ‘80s. When I talk about economic growth, I’m talking about focusing on the bottom 20 percent of the economic ladder,” Hallquist said.
Senatorial candidate Ruth Hardy of Addison County, who is the executive director of Emerge VT, said the number of days waiting due to no health insurance has cost many Vermonters their health.
Student loans also interfere with young people’s lives and can affect their well being. Due to their debt they put off seeking medical treatment for conditions that could have been treated earlier. “Fighting for universal health care for all Vermonters is an important step forward,” Hardy said. What we don’t need is insurance companies, which in this case are the middle man.”
Rep. Peter Welch shared his experience in a Guatemalan village when widows were fleeing with their children after their daughters’ lives were threatened. He also witnessed the immigrant family separation at our border and the trauma it’s causing refugees and asylum seekers. “It’s now a crime in America for one needing help to ask for the help they need,” he said.
Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman encouraged voters to leave their cynicism and complacency behind in this critical election.
“Don’t take Vermont for granted,” he said.
Sanders said the goal for his 2018 re-election bid is “to make certain that in 2018, we have the largest voter turnout in any midterm election in the history of our state . . . Over the last two years, while Trump tries to divide the country, we are bringing people together in an unprecedented way . . . All across the USA challengers are running and winning . . . Vermont should be model for America as to what Democracy should be all about.”