Freedom March Planned

No nation keeps such a high percentage of its people in prison as the USA. Europe's rate is a third of ours. In Vermont, 10 percent of prisoners are African American. Just 1 percent of Vermonters are black. In Brattleboro on September 27 there will be a freedom march. The goal is to get politicians to reduce the prison population. The march starts at 5 p.m. at Pliny Park.

Speaking at a 15 minute rally before the march will be Anna Stevens of Vermonters for Criminal Justice Reform and Brattleboro resident Ellen Schwartz. Schwartz is president of the Vermont Workers Center, which in recent years organized marches in Montpelier that drew thousands of people.

In other news, the 160 or so workers at the Brattleboro Food Co-op have a new union contract. The contract will last for three years. Jeff Jones works for the union. "Bargaining went faster compared to other co-ops," he told the Valley Post. The workers have a web site at www.ufcw1459.com.

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 and Greenfield.

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.

In other news, more than 100 people attended an immigrant rights rally in Springfield on August 8. They were protesting an anti-immigrant law being proposed by Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker. The event was organized by Jobs With Justice and other groups.

In environmental news, as of August 9, more than two dozen people had RSVP'd on Facebook for a rally against a proposed fracked gas pipeline in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Lebanon is about one hour by car from Brattleboro. The rally will be on August 12 at noon. The rally will be on the Lebanon Green, also known as Colburn Park.

Jon Chaffee is one of the organizers. In an August 5 telephone interview, he told the Valley Post, "The state Public Utilities Commission will hold a public hearing about this proposed pipeline on September 7. We're trying to convince potential customers of the pipeline to agree to not buy gas from the pipeline. Dartmouth-Hitchcock hospital is the biggest one we're working on."

Details about the rally are at:

www.facebook.com/events/1400084570027788

Amtrak goes from Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, Greenfield, and Brattleboro to White River Junction, Vermont. From there to the rally is about four miles; local bus service is available. Greyhound goes from Keene to White River Junction.

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