Health and Human Rights 14/1
Published June 2012
In 2008, the Vermont Workers’ Center launched the “Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign,” a grassroots campaign to secure the creation of a universal health care system in Vermont. Campaign organizers used a human rights framework to mobilize thousands of voters in support of universal health care. In response to this extraordinary grassroots effort, the state legislature passed health care legislation that incorporates human rights principles into Vermont law and provides a framework for universal health care.The United States has often lagged behind other nations in recognizing economic, social, and cultural (ESC) rights, including the right to health. Nonetheless, activists have begun to incorporate ESC rights into domestic advocacy campaigns, and state and local governments are beginning to respond where the federal government has not. Vermont serves as a powerful example of how a human rights framework can inform health care policy and inspire grassroots campaigns in the United States.This three-part article documents the Vermont Workers’ Center campaign and discusses the impact that human rights activity at the grassroots level may have on attitudes towards ESC rights in the United States. The first part describes the Vermont health care crisis and explains why the center adopted international human rights principles for their campaign. The article then goes on to discuss the three-year campaign and analyze the health care reform bill that the Vermont legislature passed. Finally, the article discusses the campaign’s local and national impact.