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Who We Are – Peace & Justice Center

Who We Are


Since 1979 the Peace & Justice Center has been a leader in social justice activism in Vermont. Our Board and Staff work with community members, local businesses, non-profit organizations, activists, and volunteers to help all Vermonters achieve self-sufficiency and shared prosperity. Our Center is open to the public and offers a social justice library and a community meeting room space.


Rachel Siegel
Rachel Siegel
Wendy Coe
Wendy Coe
Administrative & Financial Office Manager
Kyle Silliman-Smith
Kyle Silliman-Smith
Programming Director
Amy Crosswhite
Amy Crosswhite
Fair Trade Store & Program Manager
Kristen Connors
Kristen Connors
Volunteer Coordinator & Asst. Store Mgr


Linda Ayer
Olga Coralí (Cotrina Ling) Bisbee
Maleka Clarke
Lacretia Johnson Flash
Beverly Little Thunder
David Shiman
Nathan Suter
Paij Wadley-Bailey


There are currently no staff openings, however we are always looking for community volunteers and interns.



In 1981, we provided education materials that led to 18 towns voting to establish themselves as a Nuclear Freeze Town during their town meeting.

On June 12, 1982 nearly 2,000 Vermonters attended the No Nukes Rally in NYC at which over 1 million people attended in total. Vermont had the highest per capita in attendance. We coordinated the Burlington contingent of 6 buses, 6 vans and many car loads. We also organized US House and Senate candidates forum on peace and national security issues and educational events / speakers on nuclear issues, economic conversion and Burlington GE’s Gatling Gun production.

In 1984, the Peace & Justice Center was opened and we reopened the Peace On Earth Store to be a fundraiser for the Center. The Winooski 44 civil disobedience action took place in Senator Stafford’s office over US involvement in Central America (although this was not organized by the Burlington Peace Coalition).

1985 saw local organizing around economic conversion at the GE plant in Burlington. Civil disobedience trainings continued as well as non-violent actions at the GE Firing Range in Underhill. We organized another Central America Week with speakers and films and local organizing and demonstrations took place around apartheid in South Africa.

1986 and 1987 saw even more Central America solidarity activity, especially as more of our members traveled to various countries in that region of the world and then returned with new energy and insights and wrote articles for the Peace & Justice News.

1988 was a big year for cross cultural exchanges — with a number of communities in Central America and in the Soviet Union. The PJC welcomed the Peace Wave to Burlington — a tour of Hibakushas (atomic bomb survivors) from Japan who were calling for nuclear disarmament. A large action was staged at the Underhill Firing Range to protest the GE Gatling Gun.

In 1989, the Burlington Peace Coalition turned 10 years old and celebrated with a name change — to the Peace & Justice Coalition — and a birthday party that included a slide show / theater piece of our history and development. Bruce Cockburn gave a benefit concert for the PJC and One World Tour (a two year bicycle tour around the world by a past Center coordinator). More research was conducted on economic conversion at the GE Factory. In the Fall, we conducted a Building Ecological Security Conference which drew over 400 people for speakers, workshops and music.

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.

Because of the need for a variety of strategies to address systemic economic problems, the Peace & Justice Center has three distinct, yet interconnected programs – the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign, Vermont Faith Communities for a Just Economy, and the Vermont Workers’ Center. Each program has its own organizing agenda and we work together on a common legislative agenda.

Here are some highlights from our efforts in 2001. As a result of hundreds of people involved in the community campaign supporting workers at Berlin Health & Rehab Center (the first private nursing home to unionize in Vermont), the State of Vermont is beginning to implement staffing standards for the nursing home industry.  Livable Wage Resolutions passed at eighteen town meetings in March 2001, with about 10,000 voters considering the issue.  Over 400 people attended Burlington’s first annual Labor Day Weekend Parade and Picnic 2001. In January 2001, public and private employees joined together at a statehouse rally that drew 250 people to support Green Mountain Power workers who were on strike and VT State Employee Association employees’ negotiating a contract.  Both unions won contract settlements with the help of the VT Workers’ Center community campaigns.  Vermont State College support staff launched a livable wage campaign and, with community support from the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign, won wage increases up to 35% for the lowest paid workers, as well as reduced health care costs and more.  Over 900 people across Vermont attended workshops offered by the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign on livable wages and economic inequality.  Vermont Faith Communities for a Just Economy made presentations to over a dozen congregations, educating 250 people of faith on livable wage issues.  And Vermonters sent 600 postcards and made over 150 calls to U.S. Senators in support of increasing the federal minimum wage $1.50 per hour.  The Vermont Livable Wage Campaign printed a full-page advertisement advocating for this legislation.

The Racial Justice & Equity Project continues to make strides towards improving race relations in Vermont.  The Project assisted about 30 people of color with job placement services, advice on how to handle workplace harassment, and advice about career development and job openings.  One of the biggest barriers to the economic advancement of people of color in Vermont is access to jobs due to existing hiring practices.

The Project is working with a number of local employers to help recruit job applicants of color. Enlightened employers such as Verizon and Key Bank understand that in today’s multi-racial world, their employees must be representative of this reality.

We also continue to educate elected officials, school administrators and the media about the growing problem of racial harassment in our schools.  To date, several hundred copies of the report on the problem, published by the Advisory Committee in Vermont for the US Civil Rights Commission, have been distributed around the state.

Our newly reenergized Peace & Human Rights Project works to connect Vermonters to global issues, through education, statewide and regional coalition building, demonstrations, and advocacy. This past year has focused on the campaign against National Missile Defense – known as the Vermont Campaign Against Star Wars. The campaign has identified the local and global dimensions of the issue and has developed a strategic plan for mobilizing Vermonters.

Since the terrorist attacks on September 11th and the subsequent military response against Afghanistan, the Peace and Human Rights Project has been the center of a lot of organizing activity. For over 3 months, we organized daily silent peace vigils, with 20 to 100 people regularly in attendance, to be a witness to the desire for a non-violent resolution to the conflict. We are collaborating with other global justice groups to mobilize a coordinated community response.  And we are working on an alternative news resource book to connect US policy, defense plans and alternatives to war with the September 11th attack. Together with our Racial Justice & Equity Project, the Peace & Human Rights Project has reached a larger community, including high school students and teachers. The collaboration of these two projects has enriched and broadened the focus of the campaign and the response to the attack.

2002 was another whirlwind year for the Peace & Justice Center. After the devastating events of September 11th 2001, Vermonters looked to the Center and Store as never before. Throughout the year, many relied upon the PJC as a source of comfort, a place where they could stop by and discuss current affairs, a place where those who wanted to take action could come to meet and strategize. As bombs began dropping in Afghanistan, Vermonters looked to us for leadership in voicing dissent over our government’s response to the terrorist acts, and for an alternative view to the one-sided information the mainstream media provided.

Historic changes also occurred within the Peace & Justice Center.  After 12 years of vision and leadership, Ellen Kahler made the decision to leave the Center to attend the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Chris Meehan started her tenure as the Executive Director of the Center in May after having worked in the anti-hunger field for over seven years.

Throughout this eventful year, many in our community realized just how important it is to concentrate on the interconnectedness of the PJC’s core issues of economic and racial justice, and peace & human rights. Issues of war, militarization, racism, workers’ rights, globalization, and classism are so closely intertwined.

Over the past year, the PJC’s core projects continued to work on social justice issues, locally and globally. Striving to improve the working conditions, wages and lives of low-income Vermonters, advocating for people of color, and mobilizing individuals to take action on issues ranging from racism in our schools to war were key areas of focus for the Peace & Justice Center this year.

Here are a few of the important accomplishments of the year: a successful conference on race and racism was held; the Peace & Human Rights Project organized the participation of Vermonters in the April 20thdemonstration in Washington, D.C., where up to 100,000 people marched; the Burlington City Livable Wage Ordinance required that year-round city employees and employees who work for businesses that contract with the city be paid at least a livable wage; Forty-five livable wage activists gathered at “Making Our Voices Heard: The 3rd Annual Livable Wage Skill-Building Conference” in Rutland, VT. The conference featured keynoter Jen Kern, national livable wage organizer, and Vermont school support staff and health care workers; Phase 7 of the Vermont Job Gap Study was released; the Justice for Healthcare Workers Campaign was launched.

The PJC organized a day of reflection and celebration held to commemorate the first anniversary of September 11th. PJC connected with community groups and local schools to create peace prayer flags that were hung in Battery Park to spread a message of peace through the world. Local musicians, speakers, and over 200 community members came together to support our prayer for peace; the PJC quickly organized 300 people to demonstrate against the war during a visit to Burlington in September from Vice President Dick Cheney; and we successfully organized against a state resolution in favor of National Missile Defense. Also during this year, the Peace & Justice Store broke their sales record again while continuing to provide alternative, meaningful products and educational materials that foster cooperation, equality, and a sustainable society.

Burlington Anti-War Coalition meets regularly to strategize about what the next steps will be in response to a potential war with Iraq.  PJC coordinated three buses down to DC – a total of 10 buses went from Vermont in January.  In February PJC coordinated six buses to NYC (part of the twelve that went from Vermont) – the largest peace protests in the world occurred on February 15th.  US attacked Iraq on March 20th.

  • Successful march in Burlington on 3/22 with 4,000-5,000 people in attendance.
  • PJC sponsored “Iraq & the Media” presentation at St. Michael’s College.
  • PJC coordinated several groups to do a “sit-in” at Senator Leahy’s and Jeffords’ offices in early April.  There were twenty-six people total – representing people of faith, professionals, parents, grandmothers, activists. Unfortunately, both Senators voted in favor of the supplemental war funding.  Burlington Free Press did not cover it which prompted the group to do a “die-in” at the Free Press. It made the front page of Seven Days.

The PJC also issued a formal position statement on the impending War on Iraq.


We oppose the impending U.S. led war on Iraq, which threatens to inflict vast suffering and destruction, while exacerbating rather than resolving threats to regional and global peace.

We oppose this war, whether waged unilaterally by Washington or by a UN Security Council coerced into endorsing an attack on the people of Iraq.

We agree that the threat of terrorism is real, but a war on Iraq will subsequently further destabilize the world and threatens the safety and security of the American people.

Low and middle-income people and families will bear the brunt of this war. The majority of US military personnel who will fight and die in this war will hail from these families. War funding will take billions of dollars away from domestic programs like education, health care, and social welfare which will disproportionately harm low and middle-income people.

We believe that the approaching war on Iraq will not bring democracy to the Iraqis. Instead, its aim is to expand and solidify US political, economic, and military power in the Middle East, and protect multinational oil interests at the cost of tens of thousands of civilian lives.

We support the Iraqi people’s right to self-determination and governance, and we recognize the current Iraqi administration, under Saddam Hussein, does not allow this. We encourage a democratic resolution, not a military one.

People in the United States can aid in this effort by building a strong peace movement and working to ensure that our government pursues a consistently democratic and just foreign policy.

Negotiations, inspections, and international diplomatic solutions have not been exhausted. Hence any military attack by the US violates the UN charter in spirit and in fact, and undermines the very basis for international law.

The alternative is a truly democratic foreign policy, which we support. Such a US policy can be realized by:

· Renouncing the use of military intervention to extend and consolidate US imperial power;

· Withdrawing US troops from the Middle East;

· Ending U.S. support for corrupt and authoritarian regimes;

· Taking multilateral verifiable steps toward renouncing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, and vigorously promoting international disarmament treaties;

· Ending US sale of weapons and US sponsored military training all over the world;

· Supporting national self determination;

· Ending cruel sanctions;

· Abandoning IMF/ World Bank economic policies that bring mass misery to people in large parts of the world; and,

· Initiating a major foreign aid program directed at popular, not corporate needs.

A US government that carries out these policies will be in a position to honestly and consistently foster democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere.

End of position statement.

Minimum wage legislation passed.  A $.50 increase took effect on Jan. 1, 2004 and then in 2005 another $.25 increase took effect.  This brought the minimum wage to $7.00 – the fifth highest in the nation.

Phase 8 of the Job Gap Study was released in early December. Phase 8 included a two-page section on jobs, livable wages, poverty and race for the first time in Job Gap history and there was also a two-page section on gender.

The Burlington Anti-Racism Coalition (BARC) was created with a three part strategy: legislative, action, and study circles.  The AWARE march occurred on January 15th in Montpelier with 100 people marching and 150-200 present inside the statehouse for a hearing on anti-racism/harassment legislation in schools. The Vermont Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held another round of hearings on February 14th to complete an update on their racial harassment in schools report.

The racial profiling group of BARC had a letter sent out from the Mayor of Burlington to Church Street merchants asking merchants to sign a pledge regarding racial profiling. Seventeen merchants signed the pledge.

Vermont Workers’ Center became independent of the PJC and became their own non-profit organization.

The year 2004 was the Peace & Justice Center’s 25th year!

In the spring, the PJC was a major organizer of The Another World is Possible Conference.  Over 160 people attended the three-day conference. Guest speakers included: Medea Benjamin, founding director of Global Exchange and founder of Code Pink and Zia Mian, scholar from Princeton University; on the War at Home – Nancy Brown, Military Families Speak Out, Shujaa Graham, former Black Panther and death row survivor, and Amhed Shaki, Council on Arab-Americans and editor of International Socialist Review; on Building Another World, Betty Burkes, WILFP – National and Juan Carlos Vallejo, Colombian scholar in exile in the US.

The Vermont Livable Wage Campaign launched a new educational program for high schools based on the popular “Teaching Economics As If People Mattered” national curriculum. Eight high school teachers took part in piloting the curriculum during the 2004-2005 school year.

In September, VLWC organized a gubernatorial candidates forum focused on workers’ rights and livable wages. Over 400 Vermonters attended. Both candidates for Governor participated in the forum and fielded several questions on livable wages, health care, affordable housing and economic development.

In 2004 the Peace & Justice Center issued its first position statement on the Israel/Palestine Conflict.  Click here for a history of the discussion this generated.

In January, the PJC co-organized the first Mountaintop Film Festival in Waitsfield. The film festival featured several human rights, peace and social change films.

With the advent of Hurricane Katrina and the enormous impact this disaster had on the Gulf Coast, the Peace & Justice Center issued a position statement on the US Government’s handling of the crisis.


The Peace & Justice Center (PJC) works on the intersecting issues of economic and racial justice, and peace and human rights. We have been deeply saddened by the reports of the loss and suffering of so many people resulting from this Hurricane and the response of the local, state and federal governmental systems in place to aid and protect people in such a serious and important time of need. The PJC offers our condolences to the survivors of the Hurricane.

PJC would like to reemphasize the lessons presented by this calamity:

Ø The poor, people of color, and people with disabilities (some of our country’s most vulnerable peoples) were disproportionately disregarded by the following: the federal government’s failure to respond in a timely and efficient manner and to provide appropriate aid and evacuation assistance; the federal government’s failure to address the known and fragile condition of the levees; the federal government’s failure to adequately fund the Flood Control budget, from which $71 million was cut in New Orleans last year alone.

Ø The Hurricane uncovered the economic, social, and racial inequities and injustices that continue to exist within our nation.

Ø Billions of dollars are spent on the war in Iraq and increased funding is designated for military/anti-terrorism homeland security resources at the expense of adequate preparation for natural disasters.

And further:

Ø We lament the hundreds of thousands of lives drastically and forever altered by the destruction and violence of the Hurricane and its aftermath, and by the level of response from the local, state and federal government.

Ø We recognize the unity and generosity of all residents of the State of Vermont, the United States, and the world, in the rebuilding of the survivors’ lives.

Ø We recognize that many of Vermont’s residents have been, at the very least, affected by this situation due to the impact on the price of gas and heating oil. Many more of us will feel the effect during the heating season, according to the preliminary winter fuel projection by the government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA). EIA estimates that we will spend 34% more for heating oil this winter than last, 52% more for natural gas, 16% more for coal, and 11% more for electricity. This will be a difficult winter for many low-income Vermonters.

Therefore, we want the following:

Ø Stop funding the war in Iraq and devote more national resources to protecting people from natural disasters, ending poverty, racism, and other economic and social inequities in our country.

Ø Provide the basic necessities to survivors of the Hurricane, including food, water, housing, and health care.

Ø Vermont’s policymakers and community leaders to address the underlying economic, social and racial injustices that exist, and that led to so many lives being disregarded.

Ø The state and federal government to respond to the anticipated crisis this heating season in Vermont by providing additional funding to programs that provide heating and fuel assistance to low-income Vermonters.

Ø The federal government to heed global climate changes predicted by almost all weather researchers and to take the necessary steps to adequately address this serious issue.

End of position statement.

The following years’ history can be read in the Annual Reports.