SPRINGFIELD—On Edward Collins’s hand is a faded scar from a conveyor belt injury he sustained at the power plant that dominates the West Springfield skyline. That scar also marks the beginning of his path from rank and file unionized worker to a prominent figure in the New England labor movement.
Then owned by Western Massachusetts Electric Company, the plant was coal-fired and Collins’s job was to get the coal off the trains and onto a belt to be pulverized. The belt nicked his hand, but Collins was lucky. Several workers were badly burned in flash fires caused by coal dust exposed to the shed that thawed frozen railcars.