After Sale, Valley Proteins Workers Continue Fight For Workplace Justice

Valley Proteins, the Virginia-based rendering company at the center of an ongoing union organizing effort and a large class action lawsuit over alleged wage theft, has been sold. On Dec. 28, sustainable food processing multinational Darling Ingredients, headquartered in Texas, announced it was acquiring the privately owned Valley Proteins in a $1.1 billion deal.

But current and former Valley Proteins employees are fighting to ensure that the sale doesn’t provide cover for a company they say has long fostered a toxic and abusive work environment that has led to exploitative, unsafe conditions across its plants — a point driven home by the deaths of two workers over the summer.

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Defenders Of Homes, Hills, And Heritage Unite Against Pipeline

Though it’s been under construction for the past three years—and in discussion since 2014—the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) has been somewhat easy to overlook. Easy, that is, for those who don’t live along its proposed route: West Virginia landowner Maury Johnson calls it the “ugly stepchild of pipelines” because, compared to high-profile pipeline fights like that against Keystone XL, for a long time only a small segment of Appalachian residents seemed to be talking about the 303-mile MVP.

As Gillian Giannetti, an NRDC attorney who focuses on energy issues at the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC), explains, MVP has likely received less national attention because it passes through a rural, low-income part of Virginia, through places even many Virginians themselves haven’t visited.

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Virginia State University Unveils Student Debt Cancellation Initiative

The debt elimination effort was financed through the CARES Act. For scholars who attended the institution during 2020 and spring 2021, all debt owed to the school will be erased. Donald Palm, Ph.D., who serves as Senior Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, says the effort will play a pivotal role in shaping their financial futures. He also mentioned students should be solely focused on learning without feeling the burden of unaffordability. “We care about our students and their academic success and want to provide them the privilege of moving forward with a zero balance,” he said in a statement. “We believe that relieving them from these balances will provide much-needed relief that will allow our scholars to focus more intently on their academics and degree completion.”

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Old Hills And Old Folks Resist The Mountain Valley Pipeline

Bent Mountain, VA – On Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at 5:30 A.M., Deborah Kushner, Alan Moore, and Bridget Kelley locked themselves in and to a broken down vehicle on Honeysuckle Road, blocking Mountain Valley Pipeline’s access to the pipeline easement, a work yard, and 2 access roads. Written on the vehicle blockade are slogans including: “Old Hills & Old Folks Resist,” “Protect What You Love,” “McAuliffe’s Climate Catastrophe,” “Land Back,” and “Water Is Life.” Nearly 20 people rallied on site in support of today’s blockade.

At 12:45 P.M., law enforcement issued a dispersal order for the rally of supporters. By 2:30 P.M., they began extracting the 3 folks locked to the blockade vehicle.

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Volvo Truck Workers In Virginia Return To The Picket Lines

Following Sunday’s massive repudiation of the second sellout contract negotiated by the pro-corporate United Auto Workers, 3,000 workers at the Volvo Truck North America’s New River Valley Plant in Dublin, Virginia, are back on the picket line. Inasmuch as the struggle of the Volvo truck workers has been scarcely reported on in the national media and all but ignored in the publications of the middle-class pseudo-left organizations, it is necessary to provide a concise review of the events leading up to Sunday’s vote.

Volvo workers originally went out on strike on April 17, determined to reverse the concessions that had been granted by the UAW to the Sweden-based transnational corporation over the last three contracts.

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After Strike, Workers Resoundingly Reject Contract At Volvo Truck Plant

The 2,900 members of UAW Local 2069 had voted by 98 percent to authorize a strike; they hit the bricks April 17. Though union officials were close-mouthed about bargaining goals, rank and filers wanted to get rid of the two-tier wage system they had worked under for years.

The strike was solid, shutting down the largest Volvo truck manufacturing facility in the world. But 13 days later many workers were dismayed when their union sent them back to work and said they would be told later what had been bargained.

It wasn’t easy finding out the tentative agreement’s contents. A “highlights” pamphlet was distributed, but unlike the UAW’s practice at the Big 3 automakers, the entire proposed agreement was not put online. Workers could get a copy at the union hall, and soon the thick document was brought into the plant and copied.

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Shareholders Demand Dominion Energy Clean Up Its Reporting

Shareholders have submitted a resolution calling on Dominion Energy to fully disclose its lobbying efforts. The resolution will be voted on Wednesday morning at Dominion’s annual meeting.  When Dominion released a statement encouraging shareholders to oppose the resolution, the shareholders responded with a 12 page memo explaining why they should vote yes on Item #4 Dominion’s Report on Lobbying.

The memo includes a deep dive into Dominion’s involvement with organizations associated with fraud, corruption and the recent rally before the insurrection attempt on January 6 at the US Capitol Building. From the memo:

“Proponents believe Dominion’s trade associations’ activities are jeopardizing our Company’s reputation.

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Women Run 415 Miles To Protest The Mountain Valley Pipeline

Bent Mountain, VA – The Mountain Valley Pipeline protest community came together Sunday at the Bent Mountain Center to thank and commend three women who are running and cycling alongside the MVP construction path.

MVP protesters held a feast to celebrate the women who are running and cycling 415 miles from West Virginia to Virginia, paralleling the pipeline.

“We’re all runners, so to be able to take something that we enjoy to be able to raise awareness to the issues that are happening, it’s important to us,” MVP protest runner Katie Thompson said.

Sarah Hodder, Merecedes Walters and Thompson started their 10-day relay-style running and cycling journey April 24 and as of Sunday, May 2, have two days left.

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Pipeline Protesters Charged With ‘Felony Kidnapping,’ Held Without Bond

Maybrook, VA — On Friday 4/30/21 at 10:30 AM, Mountain Valley Pipeline protester Thomas Adams blocked a pipe truck just before it crossed a bridge over Sinking Creek in Giles County, and locked himself to the underside of the truck. The bridge is less than two miles away from the site where the pipeline is slated to cross the creek (although MVP currently lacks the permits to do so). A rally of over a dozen people gathered to support Thomas at the scene. Signs and banners on site read, “Save the Planet, Stop the MVP,” “MVP Just Give Up,” “Not Here, Not Anywhere,” and “Doom to the Pipeline.”

At 1 PM, after 2.5 hours blockading the pipe truck, Thomas was extracted and arrested. Another person on site, Molly, who had been at the support rally, was also arrested.

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Virginia Votes To Legalize Marijuana

Virginia has become the first southern state to legalize marijuana.

On Wednesday, the state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature voted to approve Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed amendments to a legalization bill. One such change was to legalize marijuana possession beginning July 1, 2020, rather than the initial date of Jan. 1, 2024. Though the bill will allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, retail sales of cannabis will not begin until 2024. The legislation will also permit each household to grow no more than four marijuana plants beginning July 1. Public cannabis use will be prohibited.

“The time has come for our state to legalize marijuana,” House Majority Leader Charniele Herring said ahead of Wednesday’s vote.

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Virginia Finalizes $3.7 Billion Deal To Acquire Train Tracks

Virginia officials and freight railroad company CSX have signed a $525 million deal to transfer 223 miles of track and 386 miles of right-of-way to the commonwealth, a key part of a larger $3.7 billion program announced in 2019 to increase Amtrak passenger service and VRE commuter rail service in Virginia over the next decade.

“Today, we’re celebrating a major, major milestone in our work to make it easier for people and goods to move around Virginia and up and down our East Coast,” said Gov. Ralph Northam, who stood alongside officials from CSX, Amtrak and VRE during a signing ceremony at a VRE station in Alexandria on Tuesday.

Tracks in America are almost universally owned by freight railroads, which allow passenger service like Amtrak and VRE to operate.

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Virginia Public Sector Workers Organize To Make Their New Bargaining Rights A Reality

When Virginia changed its law last year to allow local government workers to bargain collectively, it was a leap forward in a time when the trend is generally in the opposite direction.

As always, the devil is in the details—and there’s a lot of devilry here. But the change presents a substantial opening for unions. Now teachers, firefighters, and sewer workers are getting organized and pushing local governments to bargain over such issues as pay and staffing.

Bargaining is still banned for state employees. But the new law, which takes effect May 1, allows cities, counties, and towns to bargain with their employees, an activity that had been expressly forbidden since a 1977 state Supreme Court ruling, codified by a 1993 law.

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Second Tree Sitter Extracted On Final Day Of Yellow Finch Blockade

On Wednesday, March 24th, 2021, the second and final tree sitter at the Yellow Finch blockade in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline was extracted and arrested. This follows the Tuesday arrest of another tree sitter, and marks the final day — day 932 — of the Yellow Finch blockade. 

After Tuesday’s extraction, police remained on site overnight, shining spotlights at the remaining tree sit. MVP began work again this morning around 7 a.m. By 8 a.m., a rally of local supporters had formed nearby. Around 10 a.m., the large crane that police had brought on site began moving towards the remaining tree sitter, and around 12 p.m. they were cut from the lockbox that they had used to lock themself to the tree, extracted, and arrested. 

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Mountain Valley Pipeline Extracts One Tree Sitter At Yellow Finch Blockade

Elliston, VA –  On Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021, police extracted one of two tree sitters at the Yellow Finch blockade in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. A large crane was used to reach the tree sit from Yellow Finch Lane and extract the sitter, who had locked themself to the tree. They were arrested, charged with trespassing, and are being held without bond (set by the Montgomery County magistrate). Today is day 931 of the Yellow Finch Tree sits. As of 9:00 p.m., the second tree sitter remains in their blockade.

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City Workers Push For Collective Bargaining Rights

Virginia Beach, VA – While local government employees are not legally allowed to engage in collective bargaining in the commonwealth until May 1, a group of workers from public utilities and public works making known their desire to have “a seat at the table” as soon as possible.

On Tuesday evening, ahead of City Council’s formal session at the convention center, roughly 30 members of the city workforce chanted about the desire for hazard pay and fair wages before delivering a petition to the city manager’s office that lists four demands.

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