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.

Two Springfield Labor Rallies Set for Feb. 26

Sodexo food service workers are asking the public to attend a rally for justice on February 26 at 1 p.m. at 1295 State Street in Springfield. The workers plan to speak at the rally about "poverty wage jobs at multi-national corporation Sodexo," said Sodexo worker Noemi Nunez.

Sodexo provides food service, janitorial, and laundry services. It has about 120,000 employees in North America. Sodexo's 2009 profits were up 8 percent from the year before to more than $1 billion.

Photo: Springfield Janitors Fight for Justice

Janitors in Springfield and community supporters on February 18 visited management at the MassMutual Center to ask the company to recognize the janitors' union. Managers refused to meet with the workers, but accepted a letter. The company has not yet responded to the workers' request.

"We will continue the fight until we get justice," said Jesse Martin of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 615.

Springfield Janitors' Rally Is Feb. 18

Janitors in Springfield are asking the public to attend a rally for justice on February 18 at 2:30 p.m. at the corner of Main and Court streets in Springfield. The rally had been planned for February 16 but was postponed due to a snow storm. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 615 – the Justice for Janitors campaign – has organized a majority of the employees of Global Spectrum Corporation at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. The MassMutual Center is owned by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.

Springfield Grocery Workers' Protest Is Feb. 1

Thousands of grocery workers throughout Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut -- members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local Unions 1445, 328, 371, 1459, and 919 -- are bargaining with their employer, Stop & Shop, for a fair contract. Their current contract expires on February 20.

“Stop & Shop is taking an adversarial and confrontational position by placing advertisements in local newspapers, announcing that they are hiring temporary replacement workers,” said Rick Brown of UFCW Local 1459 in Springfield.

Talking With Local Homeless People

I met Steve Cuoco last May as he sat on the sidewalk outside Thorne’s Marketplace, eating out of a Chef Boyardee can. His sign that read “homeless vet” leaned against a coffee cup full of coins, imploring people to part with any spare change floating around their pockets. He suspected many ignore him because “they think I’m just a derelict trying to get crack money.”

Springfield Hospital Fires Union Activists

A Springfield hospital fired two nurses last month because they supported an effort to form a union at the hospital, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA). The nurses had both worked for Baystate Medical Center for many years. “We have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board,” said MNA spokesman David Schildmeier. If the NLRB rules in favor of the union, the hospital will be required to re-hire the nurses and pay them the wages they would have received if they had not been fired.

Chicopee School Bus Drivers Win Raises With Union

School bus drivers in Chicopee, Massachusetts, approved a union contract last month that will bring their wages to more than $24 an hour by the end of the five-year agreement. Chicopee is a suburb of Springfield. “Considering the current economy, this was a major victory,” said Dan Clifford, secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 1459, the drivers’ union.

Northampton Living Wage Vote Is Dec. 3

On December 3, the Northampton city council will vote on a living wage proposal. At its November 19 meeting, the council in a unanimous vote gave preliminary approval to the non-binding resolution. If it passes, the measure will set $11.90 an hour as the minimum wage necessary to support a full-time worker. The wage will be adjusted annually to keep pace with inflation.