Deb Bys has worked as a para-educator in Springfield public schools for the past 17 years. “My husband had a good job, so we were OK. Then he got laid off and we are struggling to survive," she told the Valley Post in a telephone interview on September 1. "A para starting out in the city makes about $15,000 a year, far below a livable wage. I make less than $20 an hour."
Para-educators help students with autism and other learning disabilities. Sometimes para-educators are required to change students' diapers. On September 7 at 4:30 p.m., there will be a half-hour rally to support the 700 or so other para-educators and school nurses in Bys's union as the workers begin contract negotiations. The rally will be outside Forest Park middle school, 46 Oakland Street. The public is invited.
More information is available at www.SpringfieldFederationOfParaProfessionals.org or by calling Bys at (413) 563-1155.
On average, workers in the USA make 27 percent higher wages when they join a union. That's according to www.bls.gov. Most union contracts say workers can only be fired for "just cause." Non-union workers can be fired at any time for no reason.
Millions of workers in the USA are union members, including all the workers at UPS, UMass Amherst, the Brattleboro Retreat (900 or so workers), and the food co-ops in Northampton, Greenfield, Shelburne Falls, and Brattleboro. The Brattleboro co-op has about 160 employees.
The middle class in the USA is disappearing. There are more rich people and more poor people than there have been since the 1920s. This allows billionaires more influence over politicians. Unions are one way to expand the middle class and increase democracy.