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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Mohawk Trail Woodlands, Forest Service Team Up on Conservation

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

BRPC's Tom Matuszko asks advisory board members to raise their hands as FRCOG's Executive Director Linda Dunlavy waits to speak.
CHARLEMONT, Mass. — A shared stewardship agreement signed Thursday will bring U.S. Forest Service expertise to the state while keeping hundreds of thousands of acres of forestland in state and private hands. 
 
The Mohawk Trail Woodland Partnership encompasses 361,941 acres of state and private land across 21 communities in the northwestern corner of the state. About 28 percent of that land is permanently protected. The partnership will enhance conservation and forest research and provide technical support for businesses that depend on the region's natural resources such as tourism and forestry products.
 
"I am from this region, it is a part of the state that is near and dear to my heart," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides at signing held at Berkshire East Mountain Resort. "Something that is a priority to the governor is making sure that this region can continue to have economic security and opportunity for people, but also that connectedness to the landscape and that rootedness in the special places that make up Western Massachusetts."
 
Theoharides said the state is losing about 65 acres of forestland a day to development — housing, parking lots, and commercial establishments — and it's not coming back.  
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