Letter to the editor: Charbonneau would work for Vermont’s wage-earners

It’s not easy to elect a legislature that truly reflects the citizenry of Vermont because most of us do not have the time and resources to serve. Most Vermonters who reach the legislature are lawyers, teachers, brokers, business owners and nonprofit executives. What’s rare are union leaders and other workers.
Jill Charbonneau delivered mail to the people of Middlebury for over thirty years. She has served as president of the AFL-CIO’s Vermont labor council and is president of the state’s letter carrier association. There are few in Middlebury who know us street by street, and face by face, as well as Jill.
On Nov. 8, Jill is running as a Progressive for Middlebury’s seat in the legislature. Of the two candidates for the opening created by Betty Nuovo’s retirement, Jill will better represent Vermont wage-earners. Bipartisanship to grow the economy is wonderful, but that’s what all our legislators say. What we need in Montpelier are representatives who will campaign for specific changes to ease the burdens of ordinary Vermonters, especially working families with children and working retirees.
Jill is committed to raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Some people think that’s too high, but it will restore the minimum wage’s purchasing power fifty years ago, when income was distributed far more equally than today.
Jill also wants to make sure that state labor inspectors have the necessary budget to protect worker rights. One crying need is to stop the independent contractor scam. Employers who falsely classify their employees as independent contractors may not be paying the minimum wage. They may not be paying overtime and unemployment insurance. They may not be providing legally-required medical leave and safety equipment. Such abuses allow sketchy employers to underbid competitors who obey the law. Such abuses also mean lower revenues for the state and federal governments, as well as for unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation funds.
Jill is also running on the need for a more equitable tax system. According to the Public Assets Institute, Vermont’s relatively progressive income tax is offset by its regressive sales and property taxes. Jill will work for changes that enable wealthy Vermonters to pay the same share of their income as everyone else.
Another of Jill’s specific commitments is for legal regulation of marijuana. Legalizing marijuana will produce tax revenues for treating addictions of all kind. It could even become a cash cow for mental health services. Expanding mental health coverage will not only help addicted Vermonters; it will also reduce the ever-increasing amounts of money we spend on criminal justice. 
Last but not least, Jill will work for public financing of primary care for all Vermonters. This is particularly important for families with children, and it can be accomplished with a small increase in the payroll tax. That will reduce copays and deductibles and relieve a major source of pressure on municipal budgets.
If you’re having trouble making ends meet, Jill Charbonneau is the candidate for you. Hard times for Vermont workers are no more inevitable than the people we elect to represent us.
David Stoll

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