Victory for Bus Drivers

In Greenfield, public transit bus drivers recently voted to approve a new union contract that will result in higher wages. “The contract is the best we could have expected,” Gael Wakefield told the Valley Post. She is a bus dispatcher and president of UE Local 274.

The workers held a well-attended rally for justice last month at the town common. The approximately two dozen workers drive and maintain buses for the FRTA or Franklin Regional Transit Authority. They are members of the UE Union Local 274. Even though the buses they drive have FRTA painted on them in giant letters, their employer is FirstGroup Corporation of Aberdeen, Scotland. As of 2010, FirstGroup had 136,000 employees in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Canada and the United States.

The UE’s web site is www.UEunion.org. The Greenfield local has a Facebook page:

www.facebook.com/Ue274TransitWorkers

The workers are asking the public to sign a petition to expand bus service in Greenfield and nearby towns:

http://signon.org/sign/more-frta-bus-routes

“We had two managers at the bus company who were giving us a lot of trouble,” Wakefield told the Valley Post in 2010. “We held rallies and spoke with the upper management. Recently, the company got rid of those two managers. Now, we get along great with the new manager. That was a big victory for us.”

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This 2010 photo shows Wakefield and three of her co-workers. photo by Eesha Williams

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As of 2010, UE Local 274 had about 250 members at several employers in Greenfield, Montague, and Buckland. Among the employers are FirstGroup, the Lamson and Goodnow knife factory, the Kennametal tap and die factory, the Literacy Project, the Greenfield public school cafeterias, the Greenfield public library, and the Montague highway department.

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 www.bls.gov.

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:

www.ValleyPost.org/node/134

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