800 Workers in Massachusetts Get Hefty Raises With Union

Some 800 warehouse workers in Worcester and Fall River, Massachusetts recently voted for a new contract that will boost their wages, benefits, and working conditions. They are members of the UNITE HERE union and they work for TJX Corporation. Their victory could be a model for workers in the Valley to follow.

“The workers’ first languages include Vietnamese, Albanian, Spanish, and Chinese,” said organizer Dana Simon. “The company tried to exploit those differences. They failed and the workers won."

For Construction Workers in Massachusetts, It Pays to Join a Union

In Massachusetts, painters, carpenters, electrical workers, and other construction industry workers make an average of $13 more per hour when they join a union. That’s according to a new study by Cornell University.

“The Apollo Alliance recently did a study that had very similar findings on the national level,” said Maria Figueroa. She is an author of the new study and the director of the Labor and Industry Research department in the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Figueroa spoke at the Massachusetts statehouse on April 5.

Keene Police Harass Striking Workers; Leave Girl Scouts

On April 3, the Keene police ordered protesters to leave the parking lot of a Shaw's supermarket in Keene under threat of arrest, but allowed Girl Scouts to keep selling cookies in the same parking lot. A spokesman for the UFCW union www.ufcw.org said his union and/or the ACLU might sue the city of Keene for violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Striking Grocery Workers Will Rally in Keene on April 3

Workers at the Shaw’s and Star Markets supermarket chains went on strike March 8. There are Shaw’s stores in Keene and near Brattleboro in Wilmington, Vermont. Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 791 voted 288 to 8 to strike. The workers asked people to boycott Shaw’s until the strike is over.

The striking workers distribute perishable food like fruit, vegetables, milk, and meat to Shaw's and Star Markets stores throughout New England.

“Shaw’s has recruited C&S to scab,” said Jon Weissman of the western Massachusetts chapter of Jobs With Justice www.jwj.org

On April 3, A Celebration of Howard Zinn, 1922 - 2010

Most history professors never get arrested for civil disobedience. Boston University history professor Howard Zinn was arrested many times, protesting for peace, workers’ rights, and civil rights.

March 31 Noon Rallies at Bank of America: 'Jobs Now!'

On March 31 at noon, union activists around the Valley will hold rallies asking people to boycott Bank of America. They say the bank has done little to reduce the state’s unemployment rate despite receiving billions of dollars in taxpayer money last year. The bank paid its CEO in 2008 some $9.9 million.

According to Jon Weissman, spokesman for Jobs with Justice www.jwj.org the activists will be at Bank of America branches in: Springfield at the corner of Main Street and Boland Way; Northampton at 144 Main Street; Amherst at 1 South Pleasant Street; and Greenfield at 208 Federal Street.

New Hampshire House Moves Toward Legal Marijuana

On March 10, the New Hampshire House voted to reduce the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill now moves on to the Senate. Matt Simon is director of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy. "We are organizing people to attend the Senate's public hearing which will be in April or May," he told the Valley Post.

The bill would decriminalize possession of less than a quarter ounce of marijuana. Under the current law, marijuana possession is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine.

Granny D, 1910 - 2010, Fought for Democracy

Doris “Granny D” Haddock died on March 9 at her home near Keene. She was 100 years old. In 1999 and 2000, Haddock walked from the Pacific Ocean in California to Washington, DC to call for public financing of elections at the national level. Thousands of people, including several members of Congress and former Texas Secretary of Agriculture Jim Hightower, joined Haddock for the last few miles of her walk to the U.S. capitol building.

Maine and Arizona have public financing of state elections.

Local Event: National Experts on Innocent People in Prison

In the past two decades, DNA tests have freed more than 240 innocent people from U.S. prisons. Together, they served over 3,000 years in prison for crimes they didn't commit. This is the subject of a free public event on March 10 at 7:30 p.m. in South Hadley, Massachusetts, near Holyoke.

The speakers will be Betty Anne Waters and Maddy deLone. DeLone is director of the Innocence Project, a non-profit group that has helped get innocent people out of jail. Waters got her own brother out of jail.

Free 'Jobs With Justice' Conference is March 6 in Holyoke

The non-profit group Jobs With Justice will hold a conference in Holyoke on March 6 from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m. with a dinner break. Admission is free for "low-income" people. The conference will be followed by a dance.

The keynote speech will be by Rob Witherell. He has worked as an organizer for the Steelworkers union www.usw.org for almost 20 years. Witherell will talk about Mondragón Cooperativa in Spain, the world's biggest network of worker-owned cooperatives.