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Community and labor put paid family leave and Fight for 15 on the ballot

WORCESTER, Mass. – A group of activists working with Raise Up Massachusetts dropped off 1,489 signatures at City Hall this morning, in hopes of securing paid family medical leave and a raise in minimum wage for all Massachusetts workers. Raise Up Massachusetts, or RUM, is a grassroots coalition of many dozens of labor unions, faith groups, and community organizations. Those at City Hall this morning included City Councilor Khrystian King, School Committee Member Dante Comparetto, representatives of SEIU Local 509, the Worcester Food Policy Council, high school students, immigration activists, and others. The question on paid family and medical leave would, if voted into law, ensure that workers across the commonwealth receive paid time off to recover from illness, to take care of family members…

“Scandal” around Joe Early is a right-wing witch hunt

Photo of Joe Early

The ongoing campaign against District Attorney Joe Early has much more to do with the far right in Worcester County trying to regain its political foothold than it has to do with any “corruption” on the part of our DA. It is vitally important that all people of good will – Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike – understand that the ongoing calls for trials and resignations have far more to do with votes than they do with a few lines in a police report. The reasons for the anti-Early campaign While Worcester has long voted Democratic, the city had a few Trump-style Republicans in its elected leadership, and there are a couple of representatives of that faction elected to office in other parts of the…

Worcester progressives raise funds, highlight federal neglect of Puerto Rico

Sarai Rivera

WORCESTER, Mass. – “Where else in the United States of America would that ever happen?” Worcester Mayor Joe Petty asked a crowd of about 100 people. Petty was referring to the fact that up to 200,000 people in Puerto Rico are still without power, more than half a year after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. He was speaking April 11 at “An Evening in Solidarity with Puerto Rico,” a fundraiser sponsored by Greater Worcester Our Revolution (GWOR) at El Basha, a local restaurant. In hosting the event, the GWOR raised more than $2,000 through ticket sales and a raffle, in which attendees could win items donated by local businesses. “It’s pretty clear that Worcester supports Puerto Rico,” a representative of GWOR said, and noted the…

Worcester rallies against “extremists” to defend labor rights, democracy

Crowd watching spekers

WORCESTER, Mass. – Hundreds of people rallied February 26 outside of City Hall, part of a nationwide series of demonstrations, in protest of an expected anti-labor Supreme Court ruling that could cripple public sector unions. Virtually everyone who spoke, however, argued that those pushing the case in the Supreme Court had a bigger goal: to undermine the entire labor movement, as well as, potentially, democratic rights themselves. “Some people in this country have made unions the enemy,” Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty, the son of a steelworker, said. “You’re the only people left, the unions, that protect the workers. You are the protectors. If some businesses had their way, they’d pay everybody nine dollars an hour.” “There are powerful forces,” Central Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Joseph Carlson…

More than 100 attend strategic planning forum for Worcester Public Schools

WORCESTER, Mass. – More than 100 people attended a community input meeting at Claremont Academy in the city’s Main South neighborhood to discuss what they think Worcester Public Schools should look like in the near future. The event was hosted by the Worcester Education Collaborative (WEC) and organized by students, parents, and community activists as the final of several forums designed to gather  qualitative data to help shape a community-created strategic plan for the school system – the first in more than a quarter century. While numerous viewpoints on varied issues were shared, it appeared that the overwhelming majority of those in attendance were highly concerned about race and racism in the school system. Alexizendria Link, a teacher at North High School and union activist,…

In crafting schools’ new strategic plan, a grassroots approach

WORCESTER, Mass. – On Jan. 24, local residents will again have an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns about the future direction of the Worcester Public Schools (WPS), as an unprecedented, community-driven data gathering process continues, the ultimate goal of which is to create the schools’ first new strategic plan since Will Smith was still The Fresh Prince. The need for a new plan “One of the shocking realities is that we have not had a strategic plan for the district since 1992,” said Jennifer Carey, executive director of the Worcester Education Collaborative (WEC), the community organization spearheading, along with the Worcester Regional Research Bureau, the drive to create the new plan. “That was the year before education reform, which changed the landscape for…

Gaffney, Turtleboy done: Time to move forward

Worcester’s far-right political bloc was obliterated in yesterday’s elections, when voters overwhelmingly decided to toss council member and Republican City Committee chair Michael Gaffney into the dustbin of history, and then blocked every one of his allies from the city council and school committee. In doing so, Worcester strengthened the hand of the currently leading center/progressive alliance and reaffirmed support for those who have strengthened the ongoing renaissance, as well as given a mandate for policies that have made Worcester, as Mayor Joseph Petty calls it, a “welcoming city.” Gaffney disappeared Gaffney has since deleted his public Facebook page and deleted the series of bizarre “Cheers Worcester” videos he routinely posted to Youtube. Gaffney severed his ties with the Turtleboy Sports blog, which had previously…

Worcester elections: the current tasks

It’s almost Election Day. Ballots are about to be cast by several thousand people across Worcester, deciding who will run the city for the next two years. I’ve been active in several campaigns, and supportive of many others, and have written extensively on our local politics. Given that, I think it’s worthwhile for me to put forward my thoughts on who are the best candidates – my “endorsements,” if you will – as well as some thoughts on the overall tasks for progressives now and going forward. Currently, the majority bloc on the city council is a center/left coalition that represents, sometimes uneasily, the interests of the vast majority of Worcester residents, including working people of all backgrounds, the racially and nationally oppressed, and women…

Worcester youth still fighting for “schools we deserve”

WORCESTER, Mass. – Half a dozen local students, representing a coalition across the city’s schools, gathered at the Irving Street headquarters of Worcester Public Schools Nov. 2 to deliver a transcript of the “Schools we Deserve” dialogue to school superintendent Maureen Binienda. The dialogue, which took place in late July, brought together about 50 young people from across the city’s public high schools. There, they discussed things that they liked or that bothered them about their education, as well as offered concrete suggestions for change. Some of the comments were policy specific – removing the controversial ban on mobile phones, ending a policy against hoodies – and some were broad, such as taking greater account of the voices of students during the schools’ strategic planning…

Gaffney: still campaigning, still a threat

It seemed too good to be true, and maybe it was: Michael and Coreen Gaffney announced Oct. 16 that they would be dropping out of their races for city council. That was good news to Worcester voters, a large majority of whom have tired of Gaffney’s campaign rhetoric, based mostly on making up lies and slander about his opponents. However, it appears that he might still be campaigning. Several people have reported receiving Gaffney literature on their doors, and others have seen Michael Gaffney’s signs (which are rather odd: they appear to be leftovers from when he was campaigning for mayor, but have the word “mayor” crossed out) appear after he ostensibly quit. Just this past weekend, I was canvassing for another candidate by Coes…

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