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Strike at major New England food distributor threatens to delay deliveries

A Sysco truck makes a delivery to a restaurant in Ashland, Oregon. (Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
A Sysco truck makes a delivery to a restaurant in Ashland, Oregon. (Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here


The remnants of Hurricane Ian will move into the area later today and into Wednesday — fortunately, as nothing more than showers across southern New England and gusty wind near the coast. According to the National Weather Service, the rain could get heavy at times for southeastern Massachusetts, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.

Meanwhile, a Cape Cod-based Coast Guard helicopter team and a group of Red Cross volunteers from Massachusetts are among the many helping with the rescue and recovery efforts in Florida, where rebuilding from Ian's stunning devastation has only just begun. If you're looking for a way to pitch in, local NPR station WUSF has put together a list of seven organizations that are accepting donations to help victims of the storm.

A driver's strike at one of the largest food service distributors in New England, Sysco, is threatening to disrupt deliveries across the region this week. The union that represents the drivers says 300 employees have walked off the job at the company's local warehouse in Plympton. And now, Sysco is trying to plug the holes to ensure food deliveries reach their customers, from hospitals to schools to gas stations to Fenway Park.

It's not quite clear how sweeping the near-term impacts of the strike will be; Sysco says it's brought in third-party replacement drivers and is operating a 24/7 will call operation for customers. According to The Boston Globe, one Medford school has been forced to make lunch menu changes and some Cumberland Farms locations told NBC10 Boston they will likely soon run out of some products. But at Fenway Park, there have been no disruptions.

Sysco company leaders are criticizing the strike as "unnecessary." They say drivers are on track to make "an average of nearly $110,000 this year" and were offered a contract that would give them a 7% raise in its first year, plus more lower-cost health care options and a "strong" 401k plan.

But the union — Teamsters Local 653 — says that some drivers work as much as 16 hours a day under "grueling" conditions. They also accuse Sysco leaders of trying to roll back their health insurance and are calling on the company to bring back a previous pension retirement plan. Similar strikes are ongoing at Sysco facilities in New York and Arizona.

Some prisoners' advocates are raising questions about mental health monitoring after a man charged with killing his mother in Truro died of an apparent suicide in a New Bedford jail one day after his arrest. The Bristol County Sheriff's office say guards were checking on 34-year-old Adam Howe every 15 minutes, but he apparently suffocated himself with wet toilet paper in between their rounds.

WBUR's Deborah Becker reports that prosecutors asked for Howe to be sent to Bridgewater State Hospital for an evaluation because he expressed suicidal thoughts. But correction officials say the hospital did not take custody of Howe because the correct legal procedure wasn't followed. Still, advocates told Becker the jail had the authority to transfer Howe to the hospital.

Gas prices in Massachusetts are now officially closer to $3 than $4. The state's average price dropped below $3.50 a gallon yesterday for the first time since mid-February. And according to AAA spokesman Mark Schieldrop, the trend could continue, due to decreased demand and the switch to a winter blend of gasoline that's cheaper to produce.

Massachusetts gas prices are now more than 30 cents cheaper than the national average of $3.80. While we were usually above the national average this spring and summer, some West Coast states have seen prices rebound to $6-a-gallon and above this fall due to maintenance work on local oil refineries.

RIP: Jack Thomas, the former Boston Globe editor and reporter who wrote movingly about his own terminal cancer diagnosis, passed away over the weekend at his home in Cambridge at the age of 83.

Thomas recorded a beautiful radio essay for WBUR in 2021 about his life and reflections at the end of it. It now serves as a moving tribute; you can listen to it here.

P.S.— Did you catch any of Bruno Mars’ shows at MGM Music Hall at Fenway last month? WBUR reporters are working on a story about concerts, excessive volume and hearing problems, and they’d like to know about your experience. Just reply to this email or reach out to kraegel@bu.edu to get in touch if you're interested in sharing.


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Twitter Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.

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