325 Rally

About 300 people were at a labor rally at UMass Amherst on March 6. “UMass Amherst is trying to privatize 100 jobs to evade oversight and regulations, undermine union contracts, and end benefits and pensions,” organizers said. The organizers have a web page at www.facebook.com/psumta/

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In Springfield on March 5, about 25 people were at a rally calling on politicians to cancel all student debt. The organizers have a web site at https://wmalf.org.

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Frank Riordan has worked at the Brattleboro Retreat mental hospital since 2010. He is president of Unit 2 of the union there. The union has a web site at https://unap.org.

In a voice phone interview on March 6, Riordan told the Valley Post the current union contract was signed in September or October 2022. It will expire in October 2025. There are a total of about 250 union workers at the Retreat, in two union units, one for nurses and one for Behavioral Health Techs (BHT). Riordan is a BHT. New hire BHTs make about $18 an hour. “All that's required is a high school diploma and a good attitude,” he said. Some BHTs at the Retreat have worked there for about 30 years. They make about $28 an hour.

Nurses make much more money than BHTs. At least two years of nursing college is required to get a nurse job at the Retreat.

There are about 125 nurses and 125 BHTs in the union at the Retreat. There are also about 100 non-union traveling nurses and BHTs at the Retreat. “We get along well with the travelers,” Riordan said. “They usually come on 13 week contracts. Some stay over a year. They rent rooms in town. The Retreat is important to the economy in the Brattleboro area.” Edith Covelle is president of the Unit 1 union.

Riordan lives in Brattleboro. “The union has helped us a lot,” he said. “Things are much better at the Retreat now than before the current contract was signed. We went to 12 hour shifts, three days a week. Before that it was eight hour shifts, five days a week, and people were always anxious about whether they would get to go home at the end of their shift (in case the worker on the next shift failed to show up for work). That problem is 90 percent better since we signed the new union contract.”

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