Workers Unite

In a win for workers' rights, 43 workers at Trinity Health Corporation in the Massachusetts towns of West Springfield and Westfield formed a union. West Springfield borders Springfield; Westfield borders West Springfield. “Mandatory overtime, wages, and security were the big issues,” Chris Mangano told the Valley Post in a telephone interview on March 19. She has been a nurse at Trinity in the Springfield area for 22 years. “In terms of security, we want a security person to accompany us when we go to patients’ homes. Our patients are all ages. We also want safe patient limits, six patients a day. Now we have seven, eight, or nine.”

Trinity is based in Michigan. Its CEO makes about $500,000 a year. The Springfield-area workers’ victory happened in November. Until now, no news outlet has covered it. The workers have a web site at www.MassNurses.org.

The workers are asking the public to call Trinity boss Geisel Contreras at (201) 290-0502 and ask that Trinity negotiate a union contract with its workers in the Springfield area. Specify Massachusetts, since most states have a city named Springfield.

On average, workers in the USA make 27 percent higher wages when they join a union. That's according to www.bls.gov.

On average, female workers in the USA make 31 percent higher wages when they join a union. Nationally, about 90 percent of nurses are women.

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 other news from the Valley, the federal government said so-called “dry casks” that will be used to hold hundreds of tons of nuclear waste in Vermont at a site that’s three miles from Massachusetts and a stone’s throw from New Hampshire, could leak. The waste is at the site of the defunct Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

A group based in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, near Greenfield, has called for children at the public elementary school directly across the street from the nuclear waste dump to be taken further away while nuclear waste is moved into the casks from a water-filled pool seven stories above ground. The procedure is now on hold. The group, Citizens Awareness Network (CAN), has a web site at www.NukeBusters.org.

Another goal of CAN’s is to get the government to come up with a realistic plan to notify people in case of an accident, and to evacuate school children, people at nursing homes, and others who don’t have a car.

The Vermont Yankee reactor was closed in 2014, thanks to thousands of people who attended marches and rallies, and hundreds who were arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience.

CAN helped organize a protest against Vermont Yankee in Brattleboro in 2012 that drew 1,500 people, 137 of whom were arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience.

Nuclear waste is the most deadly material on earth. The waste is so dangerous that it must be guarded 24 hours a day for the next 1 million years, according to the federal government.

A serious accident at the Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City would kill 50,000 people and result in 100,000 “radiation injuries” and $300 billion in property damage. That’s according to “Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences (CRAC 2),” a study prepared by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for Congress. It was cited by Elizabeth Kolbert in her article “Indian Point Blank,” which was published in The New Yorker magazine on March 3, 2003.

The same study says a major accident at Vermont Yankee would cause 7,000 “prompt fatalities.” There is at least 10 times more nuclear waste at the Vermont Yankee site now than when the study was released.

On March 19, 2018, Paul Gunter of the group Beyond Nuclear told the Valley Post, “Regarding news of the delayed loading of high-level nuclear waste from Vermont Yankee's irradiated fuel storage pool into dry casks: the delay is caused by an apparent generic redesign issue in the Holtec International Hi-Storm 100 dry cask and the discovery of loose bolts at another U.S. reactor site. The nuclear industry and the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have not identified the U.S. reactor where this design modification issue was originally discovered as the operator was similarly preparing to load casks with high-level nuclear waste. The NRC Region I Office of Public Affairs is not willing at this point to identify whether the problem relates to quality control and quality assurance issues originating at the cask design modification and/or fabrication stage. Holtec, however, has a history of cask design quality control and quality assurance problems revealed by allegations from both industry quality control and NRC experts and whistleblowers.”

“In our view, it is difficult for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to justify why the agency has not disclosed in a public event report the identity of the U.S. reactor where the discovery of loose bolts was originally made. This is potentially a serious public safety and environmental quality issue once the casks are loaded. In these cases, the casks were not loaded. The potential safety and environmental issues are significant once faulty casks have been loaded with nuclear waste and present the unprecedented problem of nuclear waste transfer into another cask.”

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