Victory for Bus Drivers

In Greenfield, public transit bus drivers recently voted to approve a new union contract that will result in higher wages. “The contract is the best we could have expected,” Gael Wakefield told the Valley Post. She is a bus dispatcher and president of UE Local 274.

Greenfield Bus Drivers' Rally Is Feb. 2

In Greenfield, public transit bus drivers will hold a rally for justice on February 2 at 2 p.m. The public is invited to attend the rally, which will be at the town common. The approximately two dozen workers drive and maintain buses for the FRTA or Franklin Regional Transit Authority. They are members of the UE Union Local 274. Even though the buses they drive have FRTA painted on them in giant letters, their employer is FirstGroup Corporation of Aberdeen, Scotland. As of 2010, FirstGroup had 136,000 employees in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Canada and the United States.

Springfield Man Free After Years in Prison for Crime He Didn’t Commit

A young African American man from Springfield could have spent the rest of his life in prison for a murder in Springfield that he did not commit. Instead, Charles Wilhite was freed on January 17 after a jury trial. He spent 40 months in prison for a crime he did not do. Last year in Springfield, about 500 people attended a rally to free Wilhite, according to his aunt, Viraphanh Douangmany of Amherst. The rally was organized by a group she founded: www.JusticeForCharles.org.

Community Supports Worker Fired for Union Organizing

Shirley Lewis was recently fired from her job in Northampton because of her support for an ongoing effort by her co-workers to form a union. That’s according to a spokesman for the nation’s largest union, the Service Employees International Union. “She was fired because she supported the union,” Ryan Berard told the Valley Post on January 3. Lewis worked at the May Institute, a non-profit organization that helps disabled people. The Institute gets most of its funding from the government. The 25 or so Pioneer Valley workers will vote late this month on whether to form a union, Berard said.

Rally for Justice Is December 15 in Springfield

A young African American man is in jail for a murder in Springfield that he did not commit; he could spend the rest of his life in prison. That’s according to a group that has a web site at www.JusticeForCharles.org.

According to an article that appeared in the May 5, 2012 edition of the Boston Globe and that was written by a Globe staff writer, “The group’s confidence in [Charles] Wilhite’s innocence centers on Nathan Perez, a key witness in the trial who is now recanting his testimony identifying Wilhite as the shooter.”

Local Nursing Home Owners Fight Bed Bugs and Workers

Westwood nursing home in Keene has bedbugs. The home is licensed by the state to have 85 human residents. A city inspector found the bugs on November 21. On November 29, the nursing home was still trying to get rid of the bugs. Bed bugs drink human blood. They make people itchy. More information is at www.epa.gov/bedbugs.

"Few members of wealthy families are ever admitted to nursing homes because they can get all the services they need brought to them at home," according to Nobody's Home, a book by nursing home worker Thomas Gass. The book was published by Cornell University in 2005.

Wal-Mart Workers Speak Out

Sarah Heinonen has worked at Wal-Mart for more than a decade. She works at the Wal-Mart in Ware, Massachusetts, near Amherst. “I believe that if you don’t like something and you don’t do anything about it, you’re just complaining,” Heinonen told the Valley Post on November 26. “I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t speak out.”

Workers Fight Back

In the Valley this week, 140 grocery workers voted to join a union, mental health workers rallied for a fair contract, and a Northampton solidarity action was announced for striking Wal-Mart workers. These photos show a November 16 rally by workers at the Brattleboro Retreat mental hospital; some 500 workers there belong to the United Nurses and Allied Professionals Union www.unap.org.

Community Supports Brattleboro Grocery Workers' Union

At the Brattleboro Food Co-op’s annual meeting on November 4, several members of the co-op asked the co-op’s board of directors to fire an anti-union law firm that the board hired to fight an effort by the co-op’s 160 or so workers to form a union. The board rejected the members’ request.

Phone Workers Win; Nurses Will Strike

Hundreds of telephone and internet workers in the Valley won raises this month after they went on strike. They work for Verizon. Meanwhile, 209 nurses in Greenfield are planning to go on strike on October 5. They work at the Baystate Franklin Medical Center hospital. The nurses are asking the public to join them on the picket line. Details are at:

www.massnurses.org/news-and-events/p/openItem/7760