Prison Population Soars; Activists Fight Back

The prison population in Massachusetts and Vermont has grown much faster than the population of those states in recent years, according to an investigation by The Valley Post. Between 2005 and 2014, the number of people in state prison in Massachusetts increased by 9 percent, while the state's population increased by less than half of 1 percent.

Between 2003 and 2013, the number of people in state prison in Vermont increased by 10 percent, while the state's population increased by 1 percent.

The New Hampshire prison population has remained relatively stable over the past decade.

Massachusetts Workers' Victory

On June 19, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill that, if signed by governor Deval Patrick, will make the state's minimum wage higher than any other state's. If Patrick signs the bill, it will raise the state minimum wage to:

$9 an hour on January 1, 2015;

$10 an hour on January 1, 2016;

and $11 an hour on January 1, 2017.

“I think it’s a good solution,” Patrick told the Boston Globe, referring to the minimum wage bill.

Photo: Hundreds March for Higher Wages in Springfield

In Springfield on June 12, there was a march and rally for justice for poor workers. "From Wal-Mart employees to fast food workers, the momentum for change is reaching all corners of the workforce," said rally organizer Jon Weissman of the western Massachusetts chapter of www.jwj.org. About 250 people were at the event. photo by Jobs with Justice

Springfield Poor Workers' Rally Is June 12

In Springfield on June 12, there will be a rally for justice for poor workers. The rally will start at 4 p.m. and end at 6 p.m. "From Wal-Mart employees to fast food workers, the momentum for change is reaching all corners of the workforce," said rally organizer Jon Weissman of the western Massachusetts chapter of www.jwj.org. For more information, including the exact location of the rally, contact Weissman by phone at (413) 250-5267 or by e-mail: jon@wmjwj.org.

Photos: Workers Protest at Hadley Wal-Mart

On April 11 in Hadley, Massachusetts, near Northampton, dozens of people attended a protest at a Wal-Mart store. They met with the store's manager and told him to re-hire Lisa Lacroix, a worker he recently fired after five years on the job. The protesters believe she was fired for publicly asking Wal-Mart to pay its workers a livable wage.

Wal-Mart is owned by the richest family in the world, the billionaire Waltons. The Walton family pays workers at Wal-Mart factories among the lowest wages in the world. Wal-Mart workers in the U.S. make barely above minimum wage.

Victory for Grocery Workers

About 160 grocery workers in Brattleboro have a tentative first union contract. Within the next week, the workers at the Brattleboro Food Co-op will vote on whether to accept the contract. It was negotiated by a committee that was elected by the workers, and by management. “The contract includes raises and better benefits,” union official Jeff Jones told the Valley Post on April 9. The workers recently voted to join his union, which has a web site: www.ufcw1459.org.

Livable Wage Rallies Set

There will be rallies to raise the minimum wage to a livable wage at the Massachusetts and Vermont statehouses, and in Nashua, New Hampshire. A livable wage is enough to pay for rent, health care, groceries, transportation, and other essentials.

The Boston rally is on March 26 at 10 a.m. at 140 Bowdoin Street, Boston. The Boston rally organizers have a web site: www.RaiseUpMA.org. People who need a ride from the Valley should contact Lena Entin. She works for www.n2nma.org and can be reached at lena@n2nma.org or by phone at (413) 210-4217.

Eviction Protest Is March 4 in Springfield

Activists are asking the public to attend a rally outside the Springfield courthouse where a multi-million dollar bank's lawyers will try to evict a low-income man from his home. The rally will be on March 4 at 8:30 a.m. outside the Western Housing Court at 37 Elm Street.

After a brief rally, the protesters will put on buttons saying “Mel Watt: Suspend Evictions Now” and will attend the trial. Watt is director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which controls the government-funded mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Watt was appointed by President Obama in December 2013.

Victory for Grocery Workers

Grocery workers in Greenfield and Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts have a tentative first union contract. Soon, all the workers will vote on whether to accept the contract, which has been accepted by the management of Green Fields Market and McCusker's Market. It was negotiated by a committee that was elected by the workers, and by management. “The contract includes raises and better benefits,” John Cevasco told the Valley Post. He has worked as a stock clerk at Green Fields Market for more than 15 years.

About 75 people work at the two stores.

Greenfield Nurses Will Strike

On February 10, the 209 nurses who work at the Greenfield hospital will go on strike. The strike was approved by a vote of the nurses. “One day last week I had to work until 10 p.m. I start at 7 a.m.,” Linda Judd told the Valley Post in October. She is a nurse at the hospital. “They don't let you leave until you finish all your paperwork.”