Wins for Workers, Nature

Thanks to the work of activists in Springfield, 1.5 miles of abandoned train tracks will be turned into a rail trail. "The design for the McKnight Community Trail is in progress," Liz Stevens told the Valley Post on March 8. She is part of an all-volunteer group that has a web site at www.WalkBikeSpringfieldMA.org. "The actual construction of the trail is expected to happen in 2023.... On March 6, I walked on a section of the trail with Andy Krar, the city engineer, and saw work being done by... the company contracted to create the trail design. A crew was there to collect soil samples.... I have been walking on the trail since 1986 and know all the cool parts of it. I would be happy to lead a hike on the trail anytime anyone asks me. Now is a good time because the invasive plants that are trying to take over (phragmites, multiflora rose and Japanese knotweed) have been cut down and don't impair a long view of the trail. Anyone interested can call me at (413) 686-3177 for a guided tour, no charge."

Traveling by bicycle rather than by car is good for the environment, and for one's health.

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In Keene, workers had a win on March 10. City voters approved a union contract for about 130 tutors who are employed by the Keene public school system. Kathy Twombly is president of the tutors' union. On March 12 she told the Valley Post, “I have always said we had the support of the community behind us and this vote proved that our community supports us. This is a step in the right direction for tutors and long over due. We are very grateful for the support we have received from the community. We had 1,340 voters come out and vote. This was the highest number of voters to ever turn out for a school election.”

Twombly's union is part of a bigger union that has a web site at www.nea.org.

Last year she told the Valley Post, “Tutors in Keene earn about $15,000 per year on average, which is near the federal poverty level for an individual with no dependents. Keene tutors qualify for public assistance. (The Keene public schools human resources director is paid $105,000 per year.) We asked the board to consider paying tutors as much per hour as they pay custodians, and the board did not even acknowledge the discrepancy.... The school district has had to replace 34 percent of the tutor workforce in the past year.... One of the reasons for the high turnover rate is low pay and lack of benefits.”

She continued, “There is an alarming and increasing rate of assaults against employees by students, including punching, choking, and broken bones. In one Keene elementary school, 10 tutors quit over the summer due to the violence and poor working conditions.... The board was unwilling to work on any provisions that would address the rising number of injuries, health and safety concerns, workplace violence, or other threats to employee wellbeing. (The board seems to be) preoccupied with busting the union.”

In 2018, thousands of teachers went on strike around the nation. Many of the strikes were illegal and many were opposed by union officials in Washington, DC. But the teachers won huge gains and judges generally declined to punish the teachers.

Rick Cohen lives in Keene and is one of the richest people in the world. In 2013, he had a “net worth” of more than $11 billion, according to an article published that year in Bloomberg News.

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In Northampton, an African American and Native American man who lives in the city is suing the Northampton police department for using excessive force on him. Erik Matlock is asking for money and an apology. His lawyer is Dana Goldblatt of Northampton. On March 12, she told the Valley Post, “It is very important that there is accountability for officers who lie under oath. This kind of brutality and retaliation are impossible without a pattern and culture of deception to cover it up. Again and again the Northampton police department officers’ accounts of Mr. Matlock’s conduct have been disproven by photographic and video evidence, and unbiased civilian testimony. But there are no consequences.... The department, the city, and the district attorney all turn a blind eye and let it continue. The Hampshire district attorney’s office doesn’t even keep a do-not-call list. Progressive DAs keep track of unreliable officers and don’t call them as witnesses”

Police officers who lie are a major cause of innocent people spending years in prison. A group that has a web site at www.InnocenceProject.org has freed hundreds of people from prison, many of whom were incarcerated for decades for crimes they did not commit.

No nation keeps such a high percentage of its people in prison as the USA. Europe's rate is a third of ours. The USA's prison system is racist. That's according to the book “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander.

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In January 2020, about 500 people took part in the Springfield, Massachusetts Women's March. Photos are at:

www.valleypost.org/node/1565

On March 7, the national Women's March group sent an e-mail to its members asking people to contact Biden and Sanders and demand they pick a woman of color as their running mate.

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The town of Richmond, New Hampshire borders Massachusetts and is seven miles from Vermont. On March 14 at 9 a.m., townspeople will attend the annual Town Meeting and vote on the following item: “We the town of Richmond hereby call upon our state and federal elected representatives to pass carbon pricing legislation." This would slow down climate change.

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