Stop & Shop Unions Authorize Strike

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The union local representing some 2,000 area Stop & Shop workers voted Sunday afternoon to authorize a strike. 
 
Members of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 1459 unanimously endorsed the strike authorization at a meeting in Chicopee in response to the grocery chain's latest offer that includes reductions in wages and benefits. 
 
Local 1459's vote is in accord with four other UFCW locals that together represent some 30,000 workers in the grocery chain's New England stores. Union representatives are expected to continue talks with the company over the next two days. 
 
Stop & Shop employees have been working without a contract since Feb. 23, when the previous three-year contract expired.
 
In a video message on Friday, Local 1459 President Tyrone Housey said union representatives had "soundly rejected" the latest offers by the grocer. 
 
"This company has an ideology and believe that because they're the only fully unionized grocery store that you should be taking less," he said. "We believe in fair wages, fair benefits. We want a fair deal ... for current employees and future employees." 
 
Stop & Shop, owned by Dutch multinational Ahold Delhaize, has countered that labor costs are having a "major impact" on the company's ability to compete in the changing market. National competitors like Walmart, Costco and Whole Foods/Amazon — non-union stores — have lower costs and access to lower prices, according to a press release put out by the company.
 
The grocer also claims that full-time associates at Stop & Shop average $21.30 an hour in Massachusetts and that its proposal offers continued competitive wages and that "no one's pay would be cut."
 
The union is objecting to changing the pension to a 401(k) it feels doesn't cover current future beneficiaries; Sunday premiums rather than time and a half (the company says the premium would be equal to time and a half for "current" employees); reductions in sick time and vacation time for future workers; and changes in health care contributions. Workers are also objecting to a rise in prepackaged meats over deli and butcher; the introduction of self-scan positions, carousels and Marty — a self-propelled robot that scours the aisles looking for spills and obstructions. 
 
The authorization of a strike does not mean one will happen. A strike authorization was also approved about six years ago but workers have not walked in 30 years. Local 1459 respresents workers at the Stop & Shop on State Road and the stores on Dan Fox Drive and Merrill Road in Pittsfield. 

Tags: grocery,   strike,   supermarket,   union negotiations,   

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State Declares 'Green Friday' in Support of Local Xmas Tree Farms

UXBRIDGE, Mass. — The Baker-Polito administration has declared Friday, Nov. 27, as "Green Friday" to encourage people across the commonwealth to visit their local farms and nurseries for Christmas trees, holiday plants, and holiday decorating needs.
 
To celebrate, state Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux participated in a Christmas tree-cutting ceremony at Arrowhead Acres in Uxbridge. In an effort to support the commonwealth's Christmas tree industry, the declaration of Green Friday encourages people throughout the state to visit their local Christmas tree farms to purchase their trees, holiday plants, ornamental swags, and wreaths to fulfill their holiday decorating needs.
 
"Our administration believes in the importance of supporting our farms by shopping locally and purchasing holiday decorations from one of the commonwealth's many family-operated Christmas tree farms," said Gov. Charlie Baker. "Now more than ever, it is a great time to spend quality time with your family while partaking in this outdoor activity which allows for proper social distancing."
 
Christmas tree season in Massachusetts provides hundreds of seasonal jobs at approximately 264 Christmas tree farms on approximately 2,801 acres of land from Cape Cod to the Berkshires. The sale of more than 82,524 state-grown Christmas trees contributes approximately $3.5 million to the commonwealth's economy each year. Christmas tree farms, which are often sited on soils that cannot support other crops, stabilize soil, which helps prevent erosion and protect water supplies. When chipped, the trees can be used as a renewable source of energy to be burned as fuel, used as mulch, or composted.
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