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The Vermont Conversation

The Vermont Conversation

VBSR's The Vermont Conversation hosted by David Goodman, airs live every Wednesday from 1-2 PM on WDEV Radio Vermont. The show features interviews with people who are making a difference locally and nationally in the worlds of socially responsible business, politics, education, the environment and activism, as well as serves as a way to keep current on VBSR's events, policy work and program happenings. Scroll down to listen to recent shows or Tune into WDEV at 1:00 PM every Wednesday!

Join the Conversation! The Vermont Conversation welcomes call-ins at (802) 244-1777 or comments and questions via email. Have a great idea for a show or interest in joining us yourself? Let us know!

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Did you miss an episode? Scroll down to hear the most recent shows. OR, view the archives to see past guests and topics.

June 15

Kim Fountain: The LGBTQ Struggle Continues

In the wake of the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, 1,000 people marched in Burlington, Vermont — and in numerous other cities — in solidarity with LGBTQ people. Achieving marriage equality was a milestone, but the struggle for LGBTQ rights continues. As the New York Times reports, “Since the marriage ruling, several Republican­-led state legislatures and Republican governors and federal lawmakers have redoubled their fight against legal protections for people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. So far this year, more than 200 anti-­L.G.B.T. bills have been introduced in 34 states.” Kim Fountain, executive director of the Pride Center of Vermont, a “comprehensive community center dedicated to advancing community and the health and safety of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Vermonters,” speaks about larger effort to achieve safety, dignity and acceptance of LGBTQ people. (June 15, 2016 broadcast)

Kim Fountain, executive director, Pride Center of Vermont

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Migrant Justice: Human Rights & Food Justice

There are approximately 1,500 migrant workers on Vermont’s farms, especially in the dairy industry. Often working up to 80 hours per week, many migrant workers live in isolation on rural farms and earn less than minimum wage. Migrant Justice is an advocacy organization with a mission “to build the voice, capacity, and power of the farmworker community and engage community partners to organize for economic justice and human rights.” On June 13, 2016, Migrant Justice scored a major victory when the Grand Isle Sheriff’s Department agreed to pay nearly $30,000 to settle a case regarding discriminatory treatment against an immigrant dairy worker, Lorenzo Alcudia, who was turned over to Border Patrol after a traffic stop in which he was a passenger. We talk with farmworkers and activists from Migrant Justice. We also speak with a representative from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a nationally known farmworker’s organization that has won landmark agreements with Taco Bell and other major restaurants.

Will Lambek, Enrique Balcazar, Gilberto Lopez Morales, Migrant Justice
Gerardo Reyes, Coalition of Immokalee Workers

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June 8

Twincraft: New Americans build a business & lives

There is a Vermont connection behind national brands of skin care products such as Estee Lauder, Burt’s Bees, Neutrogena, and Whole Foods. Twincraft Skincare makes soaps. lotions, sunscreen and other products from its manufacturing facilities in Essex and Winooski, Vermont. Twincraft has become a booming business with a special story: the numerous New Americans, many of them refugees who have been relocated to Vermont, who are part of the 200-person workforce. We go on location to company headquarters in Winooski to learn how Twincraft’s commitment to employ a diverse workforce — including senior citizens, non-English speakers, ex-convicts, and others — has translated into success in business, and changed lives.(June 7, 2016 broadcast)

Pete Asch, CEO and owner, Twincraft Skincare
Joel Marquardt, VP Operations
Angela Ibragamova, employee from Azerbaijan
Kaji Rai, employee, refugee from Bhutan

[Part 1 features Asch & Marquardt; Part 2 includes all 4 interviewees]

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June 1 

Paul Bruhn: Preserving Vermont and Fighting Sprawl

Paul Bruhn went from becoming a UVM dropout, to managing Sen. Patrick Leahy’s first campaign, to the job he holds now as the executive director of Preservation Trust of Vermont, an organization known nationwide. He has served as director since the nonprofit’s inception in 1980. Under his leadership the Preservation Trust has worked with Vermont communities to preserve nearly 2,000 structures and properties, from churches, barns, and general stores to hotels, town theaters and county courthouses. These formidable efforts have saved and solidified the essential character of Vermont and are revitalizing Vermont villages and downtowns, a critical aspect of the smart-growth framework for the state’s future.

This year Bruhn finally received his degree from UVM — an honorary degree, which notes: “Bruhn has used his talents as an advocate and adviser to preserve the most unique and defining aspects of Vermont and to advocate for a future based on smart land-use development and vibrant community centers. It would be difficult to find a nook or cranny, village or gore in Vermont that has not felt the influence of Bruhn’s vision.”

Bruhn discusses how he engineered Sen. Leahy’s victorious first statewide campaign, to preservation, sprawl, and what he is proudest of. 

Paul Bruhn, executive director, Preservation Trust of Vermont

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May 25

Andrew Solomon: Reporting from the Brink of Change – 7 Continents, 25 Years

Andrew Solomon, Ph.D., is a writer and lecturer on politics, culture and psychology, a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University Medical Center, and President of PEN American Center.

Solomon’s 2012 book, the best-selling Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Scribner, 2012), tells the stories of families raising exceptional children who not only learn to deal with their challenges, but also find profound meaning in doing so. Far from the Tree has received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction; the J. Anthony Lukas Award and numerous other awards.

Solomon’s latest book is Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change – 7 Continents, 25 Years,  which collects his writings about places undergoing seismic shifts — political, cultural, and spiritual. From the barricades in Moscow in 1991 to the rubble of Afghanistan in 2002 to the cautious optimism of Myanmar in 2014, Andrew Solomon provides a unique view into some of the most crucial social transformations of the past quarter-century. (May 25, 2016 broadcast)

Andrew Solomon, author

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May 11 

VBSR Spring Conference 2016

Sonia Kowal is the president of Zevin Asset Management, where she incorporates sustainability issues into investment decision making. Kowal spoke about about impact investing in her keynote talk .

Strategies to Improve Workplace Culture & Include ALL Employees — Dawn Ellis, President of Dawn M. Ellis and Associates, and Vermont Human Rights Commission 

Taming the Monster in the Machine: Engaging Employees Around Cyber Security — Kerin Stackpole, Paul Frank + Collins

How to Train Anybody to Do Anything —  Andy Robinson, Trainer, Consultant, Author

[May 11, 2016 broadcast — No audio]

May 4 

Working more, getting less: Vermont’s working women struggle to get ahead

A new report, “Where Women Work and Why It Matters,” developed by Change the Story VT paints a disturbing picture of the plight of working women in Vermont. 43% of VT women who work full-time do not make enough to cover basic living expenses. Women who work full-time are disproportionately employed in low-wage jobs – across every age group, at every level of education. And Vermont women are especially vulnerable in their senior years, when their median annual income from Social Security ($10,000) is half that of men ($20,000). The report was backed by the Vermont Women’s Fund, Vermont Commission on Women and Vermont Works for Women. We discuss the state of working women in Vermont and potential solutions. 

Tiffany Bluemle, director, Change the Story VT
Marybeth Redmond, director of development & communications, Vermont Works for Women

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April 27

David Bronner: Fighting soap maker

David Bronner is Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner’s, the top-selling brand of natural soaps in North America and producer of other organic body care and food products. The iconic soap brand is noted for its famous label that espouses a philosophy of world peace it calls ALL ONE.

David Bronner is a grandson of company founder, Emanuel Bronner, and a fifth-generation soap maker. Under David and his brother Michael’s leadership, the brand has grown from $4 million in 1998 to just under $100 million in annual revenue in 2015.

David has been a high profile activist on hemp legalization, organics, drug policy reform, GMO labeling, and livable wage. Dr. Bronner’s soap currently features a label advocating “Fair Pay for All People.” Bronner has been arrested in front of the White House for protesting about restrictive hemp laws.

David Bronner talks about his grandfather’s legacy, his company, and his activism. 

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April 20

Earth Day 46: Can businesses be environmentalists?

On April 22,1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets across the country to demonstrate for a sustainable environment. “By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.” [earthday.org]

On Earth Day 2016, activists and sustainable businesses came to the Vermont State House for a People’s Lobby Day. We speak with participants from two leading Vermont businesses about the role of businesses in advancing environmental goals and the challenges that their own companies face in trying to meet them. [April 20, 2016 broadcast)

Ashley Orgain, Manager of Mission Advocacy, Seventh Generation
Chris Miller, Manager of Social Mission & Activism, Ben & Jerry’s
Shay DiCocco, brand manager, Seventh Generation

In the second half of the show, we discuss the carbon tax and other initiatives to address environmental and climate change goals:

Daniel Barlow, Public Policy Manager, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility
Johanna Miller, Energy Program Director, Vermont Natural Resources Council

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April 6 

Where to Locate Renewable Power

Should communities have more say in where renewable power is located? A group of farmers wrote to the Vermont Legislature this week to defend their ability to locate renewable power on their farms. We talk with a farmer and a solar power provider about some of the challenges in siting renewable power. (April 6, 2016 broadcast)

James Moore, co-founder, Suncommon
Meg Armstrong, sixth generation Essex Junction farm family

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How the FIght for $15 Caught Fire 

When fast food workers walked off their jobs and launched the Fight for $15 in late 2012 in New York City, few people would have predicted that a few years later, the $15 minimum wage would become law. We discuss how the fight for $15 caught fire to become law in California and New York, and beyond. (April 6, 2016 broadcast)

Yannet Lathrop, Researcher and Policy Analyst, National Employment Law Project

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Champion Members!

Sponsor: All Earth Renewables Sponsor: Ben and Jerrys Sponsor: Dinse/Knapp/McAndrews Sponsor: Gardeners Supply Sponsor: Green Mountain Power Sponsor: Keurig Green Mountain Sponsor: Marketing Partners Sponsor: New Chapter Sponsor: NRG Systems Sponsor: Seventh Generation Sponsor: SunCommon Sponsor: Villanti & Sons, Printers, Inc. Sponsor: Vermont State Employees Credit Union