Protest Leads to a Win for Workers and Education

In a victory for education and workers' rights, protesters in Northampton got some of what they wanted July 2 when the city council voted to approve the mayor's revised school budget, Rachel Maiore told the Valley Post. She is a member of the city council and former director of the Valley Women's March, which brought thousands of people into the streets of Northampton the day Trump became president, and every year of his presidency. Photos of the 2019 march are at:

https://valleypost.org/2019/01/19/photos-northampton-womens-march

About 100 people rallied against proposed budget cuts at Northampton public schools, Scott McLennan told the Valley Post. He works for the teachers' union. The union has a web site at www.MassTeacher.org. The rally was on May 17, 2024.

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Springfield, Vermont is about 30 minutes by car from Brattleboro. In Springfield, September 1 is the deadline for contractors to submit estimates to install air conditioning at a state prison. Last month, the prison guards' union filed a formal complaint with the state after workers at the prison went to the hospital for heat stroke.

A spokesperson for the Ella Baker Center, a group that works to reduce the USA's prison population, did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment for this article.

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.

Vermont's prison system is one of the most racist among the 50 states. Just 1 percent of Vermonters are black but 9 percent of its prisoners are black. Vermont sends prisoners to a private prison in Mississippi.

Vermont uses a private prison – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York
and Canada do not.

Groups that are working to end mass incarceration have web sites at
www.aclu.org and https://ellabakercenter.org

In 2014, in Oakland, California, anti-prison activists held a rally outside a meeting of the county legislature. They were asking the Alameda county board of supervisors to invest $17 million a year in programs to keep people out of prison by creating jobs for people just getting out of prison. The board rejected the activists’ request. The activists kept returning to the board’s meetings and speaking out during the public comment period. But the board kept rejecting their request. On March 4, 2015, the activists returned to a county board meeting. This time they were ready to get arrested for non-violent civil disobedience. They interrupted the meeting by singing songs from the civil rights movement. The board quickly ended the meeting. Soon, the activists won. They got the $17 million.

As of 2015, there were two main newspapers in Oakland, the Oakland Tribune and the East Bay Express. The Tribune was owned by a corporation in Colorado that owned dozens of other newspapers around the nation. The East Bay Express was owned by a group of local people in Oakland.

There are several radio and TV stations that cover Oakland news. One of them is KPFA, a non-profit radio station whose board of directors is elected by anyone who donates $35 a year or volunteers four hours a year. KPFA rejects the corporate money that NPR stations rely on.

Darris Young was the main organizer of the protests at the Alameda county board of supervisors meeting. He was a prisoner in California in 2008. While he was in prison, he organized a strike by the prisoners. They refused to do their jobs until they got more recreation time. They won. Now he is out of prison. As of 2015, he was working for the Ella Baker Center in Oakland as a community organizer. The Valley Post spoke with him in 2015.

Young told the Valley Post the East Bay Express provided coverage that helped turn out people for the protest in March. He said the Tribune did not. KPFA has covered his group’s work better than the commercial radio and TV stations.

Vermont's incarceration rate is double Europe's rate. In Brattleboro in 2017 there was a freedom march to call on Vermont politicians to reduce the number of people the state keeps in prison.

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On June 12, 2024, the Brattleboro Reformer daily newspaper published a long opinion article by Robert Beck of Peterborough, New Hampshire. According to the newspaper, Beck “served for 30 years overseas with the United States government in embassies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He now teaches foreign policy classes at Keene State College’s Cheshire Academy for Lifelong Learning.” The article is headlined, “Disturbing demographic trends.” The first sentence reads, “According to a recently released report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the fertility rate in America in 2023 fell to 1.62 births per woman, the lowest rate since 1979.”

Stephanie Feldstein works for the Center for Biological Diversity, which employs dozens of lawyers and scientists. On June 21, she told the Valley Post her reaction to Beck's article: “Trying to figure out how to sustain infinite growth on a finite planet will always be a losing proposition. This Goldilocks equation of trying to find the growth rate that’s 'just right' ignores the reality that population pressure is about more than just numbers. We need to decouple the economy from the birth rate and focus on how we can support a world with gender equity, universal health care, reproductive justice, a livable climate, and healthy ecosystems where people and wildlife can thrive.”

On June 28, 2024 the Reformer published an article by the Washington Post's editorial board. The Post's owner, Jeff Bezos, wants more people to buy more stuff from his company, Amazon. The article attacks the 1968 book “The Population Bomb” by a science professor at Stanford university. As of 2024, Stanford is better than Yale, according to U.S. News and World Report. The book sold millions of copies. It says overpopulation is a major cause of environmental problems.

On June 28, Stephanie Feldstein told the Valley Post her reaction to the Post article: “The idea that endless growth is feasible, or even positive, on a finite planet defies logic and reality. The Green Revolution may have temporarily staved off hunger, but now we know that it also destroyed soil health, decimated pollinators and other insect populations, destroyed ecosystems, exacerbated agricultural emissions, poisoned communities, and replaced rich foodways with unhealthy, unsustainable diets -- all of which threatens the future of our food system. Technological advances may have enabled us to put the future on layaway, but that doesn't mean we never have to pay our debts to the planet.”

She continued, “Communities are still being plundered for growth. While the wealthiest reap the benefits of industry, the most vulnerable communities are left with increasing economic inequality, deadly pollution, and lack of access to basic needs like fresh food and health care. The only way to mitigate these damages is to fundamentally shift our society toward one that puts people and the planet ahead of profit and growth.”

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