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.

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.

Activists To Rally at Local Wal-Marts October 10

Last year, Wal-Mart Corporation built a new store and parking lot on acres of farmland a few miles from Brattleboro, in Hinsdale, New Hampshire. When the new store opened, an existing Wal-Mart a few miles away was closed. That store and parking lot have been vacant ever since. In Brattleboro in 2008, Home Depot Corporation closed a store. That store, and the huge parking lot around it, are still vacant.

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

Brattleboro Grocery Workers Are Forming a Union

Workers at the Brattleboro Food Co-op are organizing a union. There are more than 160 workers at the store. The workers were set to ask the co-op’s board of directors to recognize the union at the board’s evening meeting on September 10.

“I support the union,” Hannah Aleshnick told the Valley Post. She works at the co-op. “Most of my co-workers support the union,” she said.

The workers joined the United Food and Commercial Workers union Local 1459 www.ufcw1459.com.

Nurses Rally

In Greenfield, dozens of nurses and their supporters held a rally outside Baystate Franklin Medical Center hospital August 9. “Baystate is proposing language that would eliminate our right to negotiate over health insurance and wages,” said Donna Stern. She’s a nurse at the hospital, and a member of the Massachusetts Nurses Association union.

The workers formed a union www.MassNurses.org more than 30 years ago. They have had the union ever since. Currently, 209 nurses work at the hospital in Greenfield.

Greenfield Workers Ask Public For Help

Two members of the board of directors of the co-operative that owns grocery stores in Greenfield and Shelburne Falls are working to reverse a July 25 vote by the board to recognize a newly formed union of the approximately 75 workers at the stores. That’s according to Rick Brown. He’s president of the Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO, a group of unions that represents thousands of local workers. Brown’s group has a web site at www.pvun.com.

Grocery Workers in Greenfield and Shelburne Falls Form a Union

About 75 workers at two grocery stores in Greenfield and nearby Shelburne Falls have formed a union. “Many of us haven’t had a raise in more than three years,” John Cevasco told the Valley Post. He’s been a stock clerk at Green Fields Market for more than 14 years. “If you don’t have a union, you can easily get fired. Having a union will give the staff more of a say in how the store is run,” he said.