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Local leaders rally in support of unions

  • Union representatives and supporters rally at Greenfield Community College, as part of a day of rallies in support of unions across the country, on Monday in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • State Rep. Paul Mark speaks during a rally at Greenfield Community College, as part of a day of rallies in support of unions across the country, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Union representatives and supporters rally at Greenfield Community College, as part of a day of rallies in support of unions across the country, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Union representatives and supporters rally at Greenfield Community College, as part of a day of rallies in support of unions across the country, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Donna Stern, head of the local nurses union, speaks during a rally at Greenfield Community College, as part of a day of rallies in support of unions across the country, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield City Councilor Sheila Gilmour speaks during a rally at Greenfield Community College, as part of a day of rallies in support of unions across the country, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/Dan Little



Recorder Staff
Monday, February 26, 2018

GREENFIELD — As state Rep. Paul Mark, who’s a card-carrying union member, took the microphone, he took a moment to first recognize the Greenfield city councilors present at Monday’s rally at Greenfield Community College.

There was the City Council President Karen “Rudy” Renaud, who works for the Massachusetts Nurses Association and councilors Sheila Gilmour, Doug Mayo and Tim Dolan, all of whom were in their first few months of serving Greenfield.

It’s important for elected officials to show up at a rally like this, sending a message to the billionaire politicians out there, Mark, a third-generation union member, told the crowd.

The legislator, the city councilors, union representatives and supporters were rallying as part of a day of rallies in support of unions across the country. In part, the rallies were in response to a United States Supreme Court case that unions see as threatening their strength. This included Monday’s session where justices debated whether to allow more than 5 million public employees to stop supporting their unions.

Mark spoke on the heels of Gilmour’s speech, where she told the tale of how she got involved in politics.

Gilmour, now the vice president of the University Staff Association at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, started getting more involved to defeat “Question 2” in 2016 to prevent the expansion of charter schools.

While she was excited that night for their victory on the ballot question, Gilmour said her “excitement was tempered because that was the same night ‘Voldemort’ was elected president,” referring to the arch villain in the Harry Potter series.

But, Gilmour said, she then followed the advice of one of her fellow union members, “Don’t mourn, organize.” This led to her running and winning a City Council seat.

Gilmour, like others at the rally, advocated for getting millennials and other young people involved in and joining unions.

“I worry about the workers of the future,” she said. “They’re not going to know what this is like.”

Rally organizers read statements from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg and U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern that all advocated for the right of the union, regardless of what happens in this Supreme Court case.

“No matter what the Supreme Court decides today, I will fight to be your advocate,” said McGovern’s statement. The congressman and Democrat from Worcester said, “organized labor is the backbone of this country.”

“This case, if wrongly decided, would begin to erode the hard-won victories of American labor,” said an organizer quoting from Rosenberg’s statement, while Warren’s statement added that “unions built America’s middle class and unions will rebuild America’s middle class.”

Mark called for strengthening not only unions in the private but the public sector. Today’s fight, he said, is a part of a “bigger attack” from the right, trying to knock the hard work of unions.

The last speaker of the rally, Donna Stern, is the local head of the nurses union out of Baystate Franklin Medical Center. Before the rally, Stern was part of the negotiating team meeting with hospital representatives.

Stern advocated for re-building unions, pushing for younger generations to take part in them and to hold organizations accountable for their actions.

“We’re hard-working people. It is union that built these towns. It is union that teachers our kids,” Stern said. “This country needs to remember what union means.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264