Time for livable minimum wage, paid sick days

Editor of the Reformer:

I recently retired from a job as a teacher in which I had paid sick days. I can’t stress how important these were, enabling me to stay home when I was sick, get better, and return to work when I could be 100 percent present on the job.

Unfortunately, not all workers have this benefit. Low-wage workers, who can least afford to miss a day of work or risk being fired, are the least likely have the ability to earn paid sick time. A disproportionate number of these workers are women. Raising the minimum wage is absolutely necessary, so people working full-time can actually support their families on their earnings. Earned paid sick days are equally important and address a different issue: what do you do when you or a family member is ill?

Our Vermont Legislature has the opportunity to get this right. Legislators can take action this session to raise the minimum wage and enable Vermont workers to earn paid sick days. Both of these legislative initiatives provide more dignity for Vermont workers and strengthen the economy by increasing the purchasing power of working people.

I recently heard former Gov. Madeleine Kunin speak about paid sick leave. She said that in many other countries, not all of them "developed," this would not even be an issue. Intrigued, I did some research and discovered that 145 countries offer paid sick leave, many of them at rates beyond the modest Vermont proposal. Vermont can lead the way on this, as it has in many other areas.

I urge our legislators to support a livable minimum wage and paid sick days for all Vermont workers. These measures are right for Vermont workers, right for the economy, and right for the public health of our communities. I enjoyed these basic rights in my own working life, and so should everyone who works for a living.

Ellen Schwartz,

Brattleboro, March 17

Proposed police/fire design a ‘travesty’

Editor of the Reformer:

Good design is an innate sense of proportion like having a golden singing voice. It can’t be learned in art or architecture school. The $14 million that Brattleboro plans to spend on the police and fire buildings is a travesty more suited to a penitentiary in an industrial zone.

How did this happen? Were any aesthetic criteria used to search for a designer? Was anyone holding out for finding a talent? Were the searchers trained in design, followers of architecture, and poses critical thinking skills beyond functional needs? Was anyone saying this is our legacy, it must show pride of place?

Compare the dignified town offices building to that inert bunker of the proposed addition. Please do not build that, or that hulking, poorly fenestrated fire station.

When you see an architect run a band of color around a building, that is a cheap trick used by people who were once told to keep the eye moving, tie the parts together. Putting a ribbon on a cement block is not going to make it sing.

Christopher Sproat,

Putney, March 25

Support for GMO labeling

Editor of the Reformer:

I am one of the many Vermont residents who strongly support the Vermont Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act, H. 112, because not only that I believe I have the right to know what is in the foods I consume, but also that I believe foods containing GE products are not safe for the human body, the environment and the animals. Surely, I want to make the best choices when I buy foods; that’s why I support our local organic farmers, go to the farmers’ markets in our town and buy organic foods produced in other states. Knowing that a great number of crops produced in the country are grown from seeds with GMOs, I need to know what foodstuffs contain those. I urge all our legislators in the Judiciary Committee to pass this important bill, so we the consumers are able to make our choices and decisions when it comes to buy what will nourish our bodies.

Maria Dominguez,

Brattleboro, March 24

GMO labeling is about choice

Editor of the Reformer:

As a parent, I am responsible for ensuring the health and well-being of my family. From the time my first child was born, I have chosen locally grown food as much as possible. But as a busy working mom, I also take shortcuts and buy convenience foods like tortillas, ice cream and frozen waffles from the grocery store.

I was amazed to learn recently that genetically engineered foods are now in approximately 70 to 80 percent of all processed food in the United States (VTRightToKnow.org). A number of independent studies show that GE foods pose threats to our health and the environment. Until the FDA and EPA have conducted more adequate safety testing, I want to know what I am putting in my growing child’s mouth. It’s a no-brainer to label foods that have been genetically modified.

The Vermont Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act would give Vermonters the facts about whether the foods we buy contain GE ingredients. I urge our legislators to step up and pass this bill, and Governor Shumlin to sign it into law. I have a right to be informed -- without accurate information the food "choices" I make for my family are not really choices at all.

Sara Longsmith,

Brattleboro, March 24