Workers Win

In a major win for workers' rights in the Valley, 230 school bus drivers and associated workers formed a union. "I support the union. Consistency between five towns and three garages is the main issue. There are five different towns being run five different ways," Annette LeBlanc told the Valley Post. For about five years, she has been a bus driver at the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative. “I am hopeful. But we’ve got a lot of work to do before we are finished.”

The workers are negotiating their first union contract. The five Massachusetts towns are Agawam, East Longmeadow, Hampden, Ludlow, and West Springfield. They are all near Springfield. The workers formed a union in August. Until now, no news outlet has reported the news.

The workers have a web site at www.ufcw1459.com. Patrick Burke works for the union. “It was a big win,” he told the Valley Post. “The workers want a voice and fair treatment.” The workers are drivers and “monitors,” who help disabled students on buses.

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, 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.

In related news, the Northampton-based Pioneer Valley Workers Center, in a November 14 e-mail to its members, said, "On Tuesday, a group of farmworkers heading home from work in Hatfield (Massachusetts) were surrounded by five ICE vans. Three out of nine workers were taken away and are detained in Greenfield Detention Center. On Monday, ICE raided a factory in Holyoke. Two men were taken... Last month, 10 people from western Mass. were taken in a national sweep... Niberd Abdalla from Easthampton, remains in custody as his health deteriorates.... Lucio Perez, a community and faith leader from Springfield who was ordered deported on October 19 at his routine annual check in, is seeking sanctuary in an Amherst church." The group, which has a web site at www.pvWorkersCenter.org, is working to help each of these people.

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