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Posted: Thursday, October 31, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:12 am, Thu Nov 7, 2013.

Union OKs strike at Stop & Shop, with health law an issue

Stop & Shop employees represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 are threatening to go on strike Nov. 3 if the company does not back off on its attempts to reduce healthcare coverage in response to the Affordable Care Act.

The union authorized the work stoppage on Monday. The store’s contract with 5,500 workers in the city and downstate counties expired Sept. 28 and has been extended twice, the UFCWU said, but negotiations are at an impasse because the company is insisting on “drastically” reducing healthcare benefits and in some cases eliminating them entirely.

“The members of our union working for Stop & Shop are prepared to negotiate a fair contract,” Anthony Speelman, Local 1500’s secretary treasurer and lead negotiator with the store, said in announcing the vote to authorize a strike. “They understand there must be changes to their health fund to be compliant under the legal requirements of the Affordable Care Act. They have approached these negotiations with an open mind.”

The store, however, has employed “arrogant and insincere” negotiating tactics, he charged.

Stop & Shop has six stores in Queens, from Long Island City to Little Neck, and many more nearby in Nassau County and Brooklyn.

NYPD’s Kelly shouted down by protesters

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was denied the ability to give a speech on proactive policing Tuesday at Brown University when students heckled and shouted at him in a protest against the NYPD’s practice of stopping and frisking people whom officers deem suspicious.

Some protester signs called for an end to stop and frisk and police brutality, while others labeled the commissioner “Ray(cist) Kelly.”

The Rhode Island students began shouting as Kelly was about to speak, and after 20 minutes he gave up and left the stage, reports said.

One radio report quoted a student who said the protesters had warned the administration it should not let Kelly speak, and that when the school allowed him to go ahead, they took it upon themselves to squelch his address.

Kelly, who graduated from St. John’s University and earned a law degree at NYU and a master’s at Harvard, said, “I thought this was the academy, where we’re supposed to have free speech,” according to the Daily News.

The paper also said some students thought he should have been able to give his speech.

Worker death rate tied to ethnicity, study says

Latinos and immigrants are killed by falls at construction sites at a higher rate than other workers, according to a new report by the Center for Popular Democracy.

Eighty-eight percent of workers who fell to their deaths in Queens between 2003 and 2011 were Latinos or immigrants, the study said, while citywide the figure was 74 percent and statewide 60 percent — all disproportionately high for their share of the workforce.

The study said that in interviews conducted in 2011, Latino workers said they were reluctant to bring up safety issues on the job out of fear of retaliation. The study’s authors recommend more funding for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to combat dangerous worksites, more training and full enforcement of the state’s Scaffold Law.

The report, entitled “Fatal Inequality: Workplace Safety Eludes Construction Workers of Color in New York State,” comes amid calls to amend the Scaffold Law to hold workers responsible when an accident was their fault.

No hide-the-smokes bill

Mayor Bloomberg has dropped the element of his latest antismoking legislation that would force store owners to keep tobacco products out of sight. Other measures, such as raising the smoking age to 21, are still on the table.

“While it is clear that the display of tobacco products encourages youth smoking, with the arrival of e-cigarettes, more time is needed to determine how best to address this problem,” a city Health Department statement said.

— compiled by Peter C. Mastrosimone

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