Billionaires have been getting richer in recent years, as the middle class has gotten smaller, and the ranks of the poor have swelled. But workers in Greenfield are reversing that trend. “We won a good union contract,” John Cevasco told the Valley Post on December 10. He has worked at a grocery store, Green Fields Market, for more than 16 years. About 75 workers at the store, and at a smaller subsidiary in nearby Shelburne Falls, formed a union in 2012.
Activists fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage are offering carpool rides from the Valley to a rally in Boston on November 29. The minimum wage is now $10 an hour in Massachusetts, $9.60 in Vermont, and $7.25 in New Hampshire.
The Massachusetts minimum wage will be $11 starting January 1, 2017. Vermont's minimum wage will be $10 starting January 1, 2017 and $10.50 starting January 1, 2018. In New Hampshire, no increases are scheduled.
One out of every four Americans has a "net worth" of zero or less, meaning their debts are bigger than their assets. Stephen Schwarzman lives in New York. His personal income was $811 million last year. He is the CEO of Blackstone Corporation, which owns Motel 6.
One way to spread the wealth is to raise taxes on billionaires and use the money to provide affordable housing for poor people. Another is for workers to form unions, and for the public to support the unions when they need help.
There will be Black Lives Matter rallies in Amherst at 6 p.m. on July 8, in Greenfield on July 9 at 9 a.m., in Holyoke on July 10 at noon, in Springfield on July 11 at 3 p.m., in Northampton on July 12 at 6 p.m., and in Brattleboro on July 13 at 5 p.m. The local chapter of Jobs With Justice www.jwj.org is helping to promote the events.
The Amherst event will be at the town common. More information is at:
The Greenfield rally will be at the town common. Details are at:
About 3,300 nurses will go on strike June 27 in Boston. They are asking the public to join them at a rally on June 26 at 4 p.m., and on the picket lines starting June 27 at 7 a.m. Buses from Springfield to Boston leave every two hours and take about an hour and 40 minutes. One-way fares start at $16. Details are at www.greyhound.com. From the Boston bus station to the rally takes about 12 minutes by subway; to the picket line is about 30 minutes by subway. The fare is $2.10.
Activists prevented a low-income woman from being evicted from her home by a multi-million dollar bank. They held a rally May 4 at an auction outside the home in Chicopee, Massachusetts, which is between Springfield and Holyoke. Because of the rally, no one bought the home from the bank. “That makes it much easier to fight an eviction,” Rose Webster-Smith told the Valley Post. Webster-Smith works for the group that organized the rally. The group has a web site at www.SpringfieldNoOneLeaves.org.
On May 1 at the Holyoke mall, activists held a rally against sweatshops. Most clothing that people wear in the USA is made by workers in poor nations who in many cases are abused by their bosses. "Our action was in solidarity with Bangladeshi garment workers," Liana Foxvog told the Valley Post. She organized the rally. She works in Northampton for a group that has a web site at www.LaborRights.org.
In Brattleboro, a court case against police officers whose errors sent a man to prison for 18 years for a crime he probably did not commit has ended. The state will pay $1.5 million to the family of John Grega, who died after he was released from prison. “The Grega family is very happy,” Ian Carleton told the Valley Post in a telephone interview on April 27. He is the family's lawyer. “They fought for justice and they got it.” The deal was announced April 22.
In Brattleboro on January 12 a judge set the schedule for a case involving a man who was kept in prison for 18 years for a crime he probably did not commit. In 2012, a judge ordered John Grega released from prison in Springfield, Vermont, near Brattleboro, after 18 years in prison for a murder that he probably did not commit. The murder happened in 1994 in Dover, Vermont, which is also near Brattleboro. Grega died in a car crash on January 23, 2015. His family is seeking to hold government officials accountable for the 18 years Grega spent in prison.
In Northampton and Amherst some 450 people attended a march and a rally protesting Smith College's decision to admit just 5 percent African American students (13 percent of Americans are black) and the University of Massachusetts Amherst's decision to admit 4 percent African American undergraduate students (8 percent of Massachusetts residents are African American). The protesters called on Smith and UMass to hire more black professors. The protests were in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.