Community Supports Worker Fired for Union Organizing

Shirley Lewis was recently fired from her job in Northampton because of her support for an ongoing effort by her co-workers to form a union. That’s according to a spokesman for the nation’s largest union, the Service Employees International Union. “She was fired because she supported the union,” Ryan Berard told the Valley Post on January 3. Lewis worked at the May Institute, a non-profit organization that helps disabled people. The Institute gets most of its funding from the government. The 25 or so Pioneer Valley workers will vote late this month on whether to form a union, Berard said. Unions have managed to get some workers their jobs back after they were fired for supporting a union.

“Understaffing runs rampant through the organization, creating very dangerous conditions for staff and clients. Many workers are forced to do one-on-one restraints with violent and physically imposing clients, which is a safety concern,” Berard said. Management has rejected workers’ request to deal with this issue, he said.

Low wages are another reason that many workers support the union, according to Berard. The workers are asking the public to support them by signing a petition to the CEO of the May Institute. The petition is available by contacting Berard at or by phone at (978) 821-6419. Many people have already signed the petition, he said.

The two dozen or so workers in the Valley who will be voting this month on whether to form a union work in the May Institute’s division that cares for children. There are another 275 or so workers at the May Institute in the Pioneer Valley who care for adults. They will likely vote on whether to join the union in the next few months, Berard said.

The company has hired a law firm that specializes in fighting workers’ efforts to form a union, according to Berard.

In recent decades, the richest Americans have gotten richer, while the middle class has gotten smaller and the ranks of the poor have swelled. Union workers in the U.S. make about 29 percent more money than non-union workers. That’s around $9,300 a year extra for the average worker who joins a union. For Latino workers, the union advantage is about 50 percent; for black workers, approximately 31 percent. This data is from

Millions of workers in the U.S. are union members, including workers at Stop and Shop and UPS.

Non-union workers can be fired at any time for no reason. Workers who belong to a union can only be fired for just cause.

More information about unions in the Valley is at:


Worker fired for organizing union.

No one should be fired for organizing. How else but by organizing a union can workers be protected from exploitation? Shirley Lewis should get her job back.

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