Workers Win, Land Saved

Workers at a factory is Greenfield won a new union contract, and environmental activists permanently protected 323 acres of land in the Valley from development. “We are very pleased with the contract we ended up with,” Jay McGrath told the Valley Post in a July 18 interview. He is one of 74 workers at the Kennametal factory on Sanderson Street in Greenfield. McGrath started working at the Greenfield factory 17 years ago. The workers have a union, which has a web site at www.UEunion.org. In the past several months, the union held several well-attended rallies in Greenfield that helped the workers win a good contract.

The workers make taps – not the kind used to turn water on and off, but the kind used to make a threaded hole in metal, or in other material. The factory is owned by Pennsylvania-based Kennametal Corporation, whose CEO makes more than $1 million a year.

On average, workers in the USA make 27 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.

Millions of workers in the USA are union members, including all the workers at UPS, UMass Amherst, the Brattleboro Retreat (900 or so workers), and the food co-ops in Northampton, Greenfield, and Brattleboro. The Brattleboro co-op has about 160 employees.

The middle class in the USA is disappearing. There are more rich people and more poor people than there have been since the 1920s. This allows billionaires more influence over politicians. Unions are one way to expand the middle class and increase democracy.

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The town of Swanzey, New Hampshire borders Keene and is a few miles from Massachusetts and Vermont. On July 14, a local land trust announced it had saved 66 acres of farmland in Swanzey from development. The land trust has a web site at www.MonadnockConservancy.org.

In the town of Wendell, Massachusetts, near Greenfield, 48 acres of land were saved, a land trust announced on July 13. The land trust has a web site at www.MountGrace.org.

On June 28, the Vermont Land Trust announced in an e-mail to its members it had saved 209 acres of forestland in Marlboro, Vermont, which borders Brattleboro.

Most people who live in rural towns in the Valley need a car to get to work or school, and to go shopping, or visit friends. Garmisch is a town in Germany with a population of about 26,000. It is surrounded by tens of thousands of acres of farmland and mountains covered in forest and criss-crossed by hiking trails. Almost every home in the area is within walking distance of downtown stores and offices, schools, and the train station, which has hourly fast service to other small towns and to the nearest big city, Munich. For this reason, people who live in Garmisch – and in most rural areas of Europe – don't need to own a car. Cars cause climate change. Protecting open space is one way to encourage people to live in places like downtown Northampton or Brattleboro, where you can live without a car. In New York City and Boston, millionaires live in apartments.

Protecting open space not only can slow down or stop climate change, it can save people's homes from floods caused by more extreme rains caused by climate change. Kim Lutz works in the Northampton office of the Nature Conservancy, which has a web site at www.nature.org. “Flood plains act as nature's sponges, absorbing flood waters,” she told the Valley Post in a telephone interview on July 17. “We need to protect land in flood plains here in the Pioneer Valley.”

In addition to floods, climate change causes droughts. In Africa, droughts mean people starve. On July 17, the United Nations said 20 million people might die of starvation this year in "the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II." The people are in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria. People can donate to relief efforts at www.GlobalEmergencyResponse.org.

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In other news from the Valley, in Greenfield on July 20 from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m., there will be a rally to support the 200 or so union nurses at the Greenfield hospital who are fighting for a fair contract. The rally will be on the town common. Details are at:

www.facebook.com/events/717965551724256

In the Connecticut river valley town of Sandisfield, Massachusetts, there will be a rally on July 29 to stop construction of a fracked gas pipeline there. The rally starts at 10 a.m. at Lower Spectacle Pond on Cold Spring Road. As of July 17, nearly 30 people had RSVP'd at:

www.facebook.com/events/136572296926111

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The below map of the Connecticut River watershed in Massachusetts, southeast Vermont and southwest New Hampshire shows that the vast majority of the farmland and forestland is vulnerable to being converted to houses, roads, parking lots, and Walmart stores and similar commercial buildings. The map was current as of 2015.

Click on the map to enlarge it, then scroll down and click "see full size image." Then click on the map again to enlarge it more. You can move the image using the arrows on your keyboard.

For a sense of scale, Pisgah state park can be seen on the map. Is is the biggest protected area that is both east of Brattleboro and southwest of Keene. It is about 13,300 acres.

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