Local News Round-up

On May 2 at 7 p.m. in Hadley, Massachusetts townspeople will decide whether to invest government money to protect farmland. Hadley borders Northampton and Amherst. The annual town meeting will be at 131 Russell Street. The 193 acre Szala Farm hangs in the balance. The USA is losing 6,000 acres of open space every day.

In other news from the Valley, more than 50 people attended a rally in Greenfield for jobs with justice on April 26. Jason McGrath started working at the Greenfield Kennametal factory 19 years ago. He still works there. He was laid off three times, each time for several years. “The weather was bad but we still had a great turnout,” McGrath told the Valley Post. “Kennametal employees, members of the UE, community members, members from several other unions... they all came to show their support.” The workers have a web site at www.ueUnion.org.

Sixty-five people work at the Greenfield factory. 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 (600 of the 900 Retreat workers are union members), 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.

As of 2017, Shawn Coates had worked at the Greenfield factory for 28 years. “What the company is trying to impose is going to hurt people,” he told the Valley Post that year.

The below photo shows the April 26, 2019 rally. The photo was taken by Marie Lausch or Abbie Curtis.

In other news from the Valley, on May 1 about 150 people attended rallies in the Pioneer Valley for immigrants' and workers' rights, and to call on politicians to invest more in schools. “It was great,” Rose Bookbinder told the Valley Post. She works for the group that organized the rallies. The group has a web site at www.pvWorkersCenter.org.

In other news from the Valley, the federal government says nuclear waste may be leaking into the Connecticut river about three miles from Massachusetts and a stone's throw from New Hampshire. Holtec Corporation is to blame. Deb Katz runs a group in the Pioneer Valley that has a web site at www.NukeBusters.org. On April 30, she told the Valley Post, “Holtec violated Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations effecting public health and safety. What does NRC do? It gives Holtec a slap on the wrist for its bad behavior. Once again NRC is acting like a lap dog rather than a watch dog.”

Kevin Kamps works for a group that has a web site at www.BeyondNuclear.org. On April 30, he told the Valley Post, “Holtec has been flouting public health, safety, and environmental protections for decades, with enabling complicity from the NRC. This is high level radioactive waste, hazardous for a million years and able to deliver a fatal dose of gamma and neutron radiation to persons close enough, without shielding, within minutes.”

In 2014, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant was permanently closed thanks to hundreds of people who were arrested for non-violent civil disobedience and thousands who attended marches in Brattleboro. Deb Katz was one of the main organizers.

In other news from the Valley, on May 1 in the Pioneer Valley there were two rallies calling on congress to stop Trump's war in Venezuela. Two of the rally organizers are Hector Figarella Figarella.Hector@gmail.com (413) 230-0416 and Susan Triolo susanltriolo@yahoo.com (413) 687-2176.

In other news from the Valley, in New Hampshire on April 23 a judge ruled that the state government must make public the names of 250 or so police officers in New Hampshire who lied in court, lied in a police report, falsified records and/or evidence, engaged in criminal conduct, abused their power, committed “egregious dereliction of duty,” used excessive force and/or have shown signs of “mental instability” that led to disciplinary action.

Last year Carol Sadrozinske told the Valley Post that current and/or recently employed police officers in Keene and the New Hampshire towns of Hinsdale and Chesterfield are on the list. Sadrozinske works for the New Hampshire Department of Justice. She refused to provide the names of the officers. Hinsdale and Chesterfield both border Brattleboro.

A group that has a web site at www.InnocenceProject.org has freed 365 people from prison in the USA by proving they were innocent of the crime they were imprisoned for. On average, each of those people spent 14 years in prison.

In other news from the Valley, in Northampton on April 26 dozens of people attended a rally that was organized by the union for public school teachers in Northampton. The rally was to demand that all workers in the schools make at least $15 an hour. Starting pay for cafeteria workers is $11.64 an hour; for custodians it's $12.01. A phone number for the union is at www.MassTeacher.org.

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