Degree Name

MA in Sustainable Development

First Advisor

Jeff Unsicker


We have long lived in a society dominated by free-market capitalism, which has contributed to the creation of the dominant narrative that pro-labor policies mandating employee protections in the workplace will kill jobs and harm the economy. Business owners, lobbyists, and business associations and organizations have long spoken out against the government dictating workplace policies and operations, while workers, labor groups, unions, and advocates have called for increased protections within the workplace. Finding a workable balance between these two demands within the legislature and in the broader community can be challenging. In Vermont specifically, the legislature has battled with “anti-business” branding that often places Representatives and Senators in the position of having to choose between being an ally either to labor or to business. This reality created a challenging environment for passing paid sick days legislation.

This paper is a case study of the 2015/2016 campaign to pass paid sick days into law in Vermont. I draw from my direct experience working on the campaign for the Main Street Alliance of Vermont. In my role, I have been working to organize small business owners across the state to engage in advocating for a paid sick days law and to change the narrative that pro-worker policies are anti-business. This paper explores the strategy behind this campaign, inside and outside of the legislature; the amendments to the legislation that lead to increased support from legislators and the business community; the messaging strategy that eased the concerns of many legislators and business owners; and the other factors that lead to the passage of this bill into law in March 2016.


Law | Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration