Workers' Victories

Hundreds of workers in the Valley will be getting raises and a new union contract. On February 19, leaders of two unions that represent around 1,700 land-line telephone and internet workers in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine said they had reached an agreement for a new contract with Fairpoint Corporation. The workers have been on strike since October.

Mark Anderson has been a telephone lineman for 27 years for the company. He lives in Vernon, Vermont, a town that borders Massachusetts and New Hampshire. “We didn't get everything we wanted, but overall it's a fair contract,” Anderson told the Valley Post on February 20.

The contract will only take effect if the workers vote to approve it; voting is underway. Results will be announced on February 22 at the unions' web site: www.FairnessAtFairpoint.com.

A photo of the picket line in Dummerston, Vermont, which borders Brattleboro, is at:

http://valleypost.org/2014/10/25/1700-workers-strike

The picket line in Brattleboro was up through the extreme cold of the past two months. “Without the union, we would be much worse off,” Anderson said. “We are grateful for the support we got from the community. People joined us on the picket line and donated to our strike fund.”

Also on February 19, Walmart said it would give raises to about 500,000 of its 1.3 million workers in the USA. Jon Weissman works for the western Massachusetts chapter of www.jwj.org, which in recent years has organized rallies that were attended by hundreds of people at Walmart stores in the Valley. “OUR Walmart members won this,” Weissman said.

OUR Walmart is a group of Walmart workers who have a web site at www.ForRespect.org.

Weissman said there is still work to be done for Walmart workers and their allies. “We need Walmart to publicly commit to $15 an hour and full-time, consistent hours,” he said. “This announcement does not address the illegal firings of so many workers, such as Windy Edick (Chicopee, Massachusetts store) and Kerry Brown (Hadley, Massachusetts store), who have been speaking out for better jobs.”

Walmart is owned by the richest family in the world, the Waltons. It pays among the lowest wages in the world at its factories in China, and barely above minimum wage in the USA.

On average, workers in the USA make about 25 percent higher wages when they join a union. That's according to www.bls.gov.

Most union contracts say workers can only be fired for "just cause." Non-union workers can be fired at any time for no reason.

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