Spread the Wealth

Activists are fighting for equality. In Keene, workers organized a union. In Northampton, workers are forming a union, and a grassroots group that last year made the Massachusetts minimum wage the nation's highest is now working to raise taxes on the rich.

“We expect the workers will vote on whether to form a union on or about September 19,” Caitlin DuBois told the Valley Post on September 9. She works for the union that the 66 workers at the Hotel Northampton are likely to join. More than two-thirds of the workers signed cards saying they want to join the union, DuBois said. The federal government will hold a secret ballot election to verify that. The union has a web site at www.UniteHere.org.

Fifteen security guards at Keene State College voted September 8 to join the Teamsters union. Other workers at the college may follow suit. Kim Schmidl-Gagne works at Keene State. “We are asking our co-workers to join the union,” she told the Valley Post on July 1. At that time, more than 20 percent of the approximately 320 non-union workers at the college had signed cards to join the www.nea.org union, Schmidl-Gagne said. The union election date has not been set. Professors at Keene State already belong to that union. “Pay, benefits, and the grievance process are our key issues,” she said. “New Hampshire is in last place among the 50 states in funding for higher education. We want a voice to advocate to change that.”

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.

Back in Northampton, there will be a public meeting on September 16 at 7 p.m. at JFK middle school's community room to kick off the campaign to raise taxes on the rich. The money would be used to improve schools and public transportation, among other things. Northampton resident Pamela Schwartz is organizing the meeting. “We need to make our tax system more fair,” she told the Valley Post on September 8. She can be reached at pschwartz77@gmail.com or via the group that is coordinating the statewide effort: www.RaiseUpMA.org.

In Vermont, the Progressive party has elected more of its candidates to the state legislature than any other third party in the nation. Its platform says, “We will work to adopt a progressive income tax system where wealthier Vermonters, especially the top 5 percent, pay a higher percentage of tax.”

The Vermont Democratic party platform, by contrast, says the Democratic Party, “Encourages consideration of tax policies that address the inequalities of income and wealth.” The operative word is “consideration.” Vermont's Democratic governor has said repeatedly he will not raise taxes on the rich.

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