10 Arrested at Protest

Ten people from the Pioneer Valley were among about 70 people at a rally on April 15. Ten people were arrested for non-violent civil disobedience. The goal was to stop Israel's war on Gaza. The rally was outside a military factory in Middletown, Connecticut, which is about 40 minutes by car from Springfield, Massachusetts.

“It was beautiful and powerful,” Gabbi Perry of Holyoke, Massachusetts told the Valley Post in a voice phone interview on April 18. She was at the rally. “Living in the United States, my tax dollars are funding this genocide,” Perry said. “That is not OK. In Holyoke there are many people who are experiencing homelessness. This money could solve that problem.”

William Chaney of Northampton, Massachusetts was at the rally too. In a voice phone interview on April 17, he told the Valley Post, “We blocked the gates. About an hour-and-a-half into the first shift at the factory, the police broke up the protest. The protest went really well. Our moralle was high. Raytheon is the parent company of Pratt and Whitney, which owns that factory. Last year, Raytheon got $3.6 billion from the U.S. defence department. That money should go to education, healthcare, renewable energy and housing for homeless people.”

The rally organizers have a web site at www.a15action.com.

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On Saturday, April 20 (rain date Sunday) bicyclists of any age will join the Solar Rollers for a brief section of the Solar Rollers River Ride near Greenfield from the Great Falls Discovery Center to Unity Park. Kayakers and canoeists will arrive at the Riverview Picnic area for the 1 p.m. rally. Walkers and rally-goers are welcome to join the walk or any of the three rallies to mark this Earth Day event.

There will be music and speakers from the Connecticut River Defenders, No Assault & Batteries in Wendell, and Shutesbury Smart Solar, calling for No False Climate Solutions.

Kayakers and canoeists are invited to join a flotilla of small boats that will gather at 12:30 p.m. at the west side of the Connecticut river at the dead end of Pisgah Mountain Road in Gill. From there they will launch to arrive at the Riverview Picnic area in time for the 1 p.m. rally. This is a short paddle across the River. For more information or to register, contact Ivan Ussach, director of the Millers River Watershed Council: ivanussach@gmail.com.

At noon, a procession of walkers from Shutesbury Smart Solar and No Assault & Batteries in Wendell will join the action, starting at Cabot Camp beneath the French King Bridge where East Mineral Road meets Dorsey Road in Millers Falls on the Erving town line. They will follow River Road to the Riverview Picnic Area next to the river intake of the pumped storage station.

All bikers capable of joining the ride are invited to join the Solar Rollers as they bike for a healthy River. They will depart from a send-off rally on the Greenfield Town Common from 9 – 10 a.m. They will arrive at a rally of local supporters at the riverside next to Unity Park in Montague at 11 a.m. From there, the ride continues to the Northfield Riverview Picnic Area (144 Pine Meadow Rd., Northfield) where the rollers, walkers and paddlers will join other supporters for a 1 p.m. rally and picnic. Additional event details available at:

https://ctriverdefenders.org/spotlight/

For more information contact Court Dorsey at (413) 325-7587 or courtcdorsey@gmail.com.

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Frank Riordan has worked at the Brattleboro Retreat mental hospital since 2010. He is president of Unit 2 of the union there. The union has a web site at https://unap.org.

In a voice phone interview in March 2023 Riordan told the Valley Post the current union contract was signed in September or October 2022. It will expire in October 2025. There are a total of about 250 union workers at the Retreat, in two union units, one for nurses and one for Behavioral Health Techs (BHT). Riordan is a BHT. New hire BHTs make about $18 an hour. “All that's required is a high school diploma and a good attitude,” he said. Some BHTs at the Retreat have worked there for about 30 years. They make about $28 an hour.

Nurses make much more money than BHTs. At least two years of nursing college is required to get a nurse job at the Retreat.

There are about 125 nurses and 125 BHTs in the union at the Retreat. There are also about 100 non-union traveling nurses and BHTs at the Retreat. “We get along well with the travelers,” Riordan said. “They usually come on 13 week contracts. Some stay over a year. They rent rooms in town. The Retreat is important to the economy in the Brattleboro area.” Edith Covelle is president of the Unit 1 union.

Riordan lives in Brattleboro. “The union has helped us a lot,” he said. “Things are much better at the Retreat now than before the current contract was signed. We went to 12 hour shifts, three days a week. Before that it was eight hour shifts, five days a week, and people were always anxious about whether they would get to go home at the end of their shift (in case the worker on the next shift failed to show up for work). That problem is 90 percent better since we signed the new union contract.”

On April 17, 2024 the Valley Post left a voice message for Riordan and emailed him to request an interview to update this article. As of April 19, the Valley Post had not heard back from Riordan. The Valley Post will publish Riordan's comments in a future article if they come.

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