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Members of Local Local 12325 are picketing outside Berkshire Gas over contract talks; their contract expires on Sunday.

Berkshire Gas Workers Picket to Over Contract Talks

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Unionized Berkshire Gas employees picketed outside of the facility on Thursday, saying they are asking for favorable work conditions, wages, and benefits.

"We are currently involved in contract negotiations with our union members and we are hopeful that an agreement beneficial to all parties will be reached soon," said Sarah Wall Fliotsos, a Berkshire Gas spokesperson.

Michael Ferriter, a retiree of the gas company and 20-year president of United Steelworkers Local 12325, spoke on behalf of the workers. The contract expires on March 31 and the union would like to get a new agreement ratified in a timely manner.

"We're just trying to get the company to move along and realize that a work stoppage is the worst thing that could happen to Berkshire County," he said.

The details of the asks are not being released but Ferriter said it is important to ratify a contract to keep the public safe. As with any contract, benefits, wages, and work conditions are items of negotiation.

"I worry more about public safety right now because if these guys don't get a contract, there is literally no one that is qualified to do their work. We have to go through an extensive amount of programs through Massachusetts to make sure these people can be on the street doing their job every day plus the fact that they are first responders," he said.

"I did it for 35 years, I was the president of the union for 20 years. Any given day, they could be called to a gas leak and not come home. It's very important that you have the right people out there doing the job and making sure the public is safe."

About 20 people stood on Cheshire Road around 3 p.m. holding signs with phrases such as "Fair Contract Now," "Fair Contract, Safety, Benefits, Wages," and "Your union wants to hear from you."  Ferriter noted that this wasn't even half of the picketers as many had not gotten out of work yet.

"All departments are going to be out of your picketing today from customer service to the street department who deal with everything underground, the service department who deals with everything above ground," he said.

"It's pretty much the whole facility."

He said union contracts had always a battle during his time there and that "they locked us out for nine months 20 years ago, I was the president then and that's nothing they're going to see again."

The United Steelworkers is North America's largest industrial union, made up of 1.2 million members and retirees in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. It represents workers in nearly every industry and has a presence in the United Kingdom, Ireland, England, Scotland, Mexico, and many other places around the world.

Tags: berkshire gas,   picketing,   union negotiations,   

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Toy Library Installed at Onota Lake

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Feel free to use or leave a toy at Onota Lake's newest infrastructure meant to foster community and benefit kids.

Burbank Park now has a toy library thanks to Wahconah Regional High School senior Alexandra Bills. Located along the wall at the beach area, the green and blue structure features two shelves with sand toys that can be used to enhance children's visits.

The Parks Commission supported Bills' proposal in February as part of her National Honors Society individual service project and it was installed this month. Measuring about 4 feet wide and 5.8 feet tall, it was built by the student and her father with donated materials from a local lumber company.

Friends and family members provided toys to fill the library such as pails, shovels, Frisbees, and trucks.

"I wanted to create a toy library like the other examples in Berkshire County from the sled library to the book libraries," she told the commission in February.

"But I wanted to make it toys for Onota Lake because a lot of kids forget their toys or some kids can't afford toys."

Bills lives nearby and will check on the library weekly — if not daily — to ensure the operation is running smoothly.  A sign reading "Borrow-Play-Return" asks community members to clean up after themselves after using the toys.

It was built to accommodate children's heights and will be stored during the winter season.

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