Business

At Upper Crust, A Good Relationship Goes Sour

By Lisa Mullins   |   Tuesday, December 7, 2010
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Dec. 6, 2010


BOSTON -- Anchor Lisa Mullins speaks with Boston Globe reporter, Jenn Abelson, about her article on the relationship between undocumented workers from Brazil and the high-profile pizza store chain they helped build. What was initially a mutually beneficial relationship ended up souring amid allegations of denied pay and exploitation. Listen to the interview.

We received the statement below from Upper Crust following to our attempts to contact the company.

In the past we did in fact have an issue related to incorrectly managing overtime and were ordered to make a payment to current and former employees, which we did.  The checks were distributed and all but a few were cashed; and those few that were returned to us were turned over to the Department of Labor.  All of the checks were turned over to the journalist working on the story so she could review them.  Any allegation to the contrary is untrue.

After this issue was resolved we made some business decisions, and reduced some workers hours and hired other works to fill those additional hours at the regular hourly rate.  This made some employees understandably upset but it was best for the company and thus our employees -- we employee about 250 people in Massachusetts. We also made some additional staffers managers because we had hired a number of new employees in various locations and needed additional help in training, scheduling and overseeing their work."

George Regan
Upper Crust Spokesman

Defense Spending In Mass. Rockets Upward

By Sarah Birnbaum   |   Tuesday, December 7, 2010
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Dec. 7, 2010

BOSTON — Defense spending in Massachusetts has tripled since 2001, bringing 115,000 jobs to the Bay State.

So says new research from the University of Massachusetts’ Donahue Institute, funded by Raytheon Corporation. According to the study, the Department of Defense spent over $15 billion dollars in the Commonwealth last year – six times as much as all other federal contract spending in the Bay State.

A still from the report. (Courtesy)

Massachusetts Secretary of Labor Greg Bialecki says the state’s strength in technology and education is a big draw for the military.

“It’s our cluster of universities – MIT really takes the lead – goes back to a long history of helping to invent radar back in WWII and then a cluster of great technology companies,” Bialecki said.

According to the study, the defense sector generated $26 billion dollars in economic activity and 115,000 local jobs, making defense one of the leading industries in Massachusetts.

But President Obama’s commission to reduce the deficit is calling for big cuts in military spending to help pay off the nation’s debt.

 Bialecki says those defense cuts could have broad repercussions in this state.

“We have to pay very close attention to how much is going to be spent on purchasing equipment and weaponry.  Everything from Patriot missiles to jet engines are produced here,” Bialecki said.

Universities and scientific research could also suffer.  According to the study, MIT alone received nearly $2 billion in research grants from the Departments of Defense and Homeland security .

The Defense Industry in Massachusetts

Amid Rising Demand, Price Of Coffee Beans Soar

By Charlie Herman   |   Friday, November 26, 2010
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State Approves National Grid Purchase Of Cape Wind

By Sean Corcoran   |   Tuesday, November 23, 2010
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The state's Department of Public Utilities Monday approved an agreement that will allow power distributor National Grid to buy half of the electricity generated by the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound.


Monday's ruling was a key victory for backers of the project, because it assures that once Cape Wind's 130 wind turbines are installed and spinning, there's a utility that will buy at least half of the power.

In its ruling, the DPU called the power purchase agreement between National Grid and Cape Wind both cost effective and a good deal for ratepayers because it provides protection against volatile fossil fuel prices, while helping the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

National Grid customers initially will pay about 18.7 cents per kilowatt hour -- which is about double the current cost of
electricity. But because it's just a small percentage of Nation Grid's overall supply, customers should only see an increase of about $2 a month on their electric bills. Then, after the year 2013, the price goes up 3.5 percent annually.

The plan to install wind turbines off the coast of Cape Cod received federal approval this past April. And Monday's DPU ruling is one of the final regulatory hurdles the project needed to overcome before beginning construction.

The last major hurdle is financing the project, but having an approved customer and set electricity rates should make that task easier. Although so far, Cape Wind has not found buyers for the other 50 percent of its power.

Opponents of the project said they expect to appeal Monday's ruling in the courts.

Boston Factory Takes Training Into Its Own Hands

By Chris Arnold   |   Wednesday, November 17, 2010
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Customers Worry As Book Fair Goes On Sale

By Adam Reilly   |   Wednesday, November 10, 2010
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Nov. 10, 2010


Art books on display at the New England Mobile Book Fair, which is neither mobile or a fair. (Don Coyote/Flickr)

BOSTON — The New England Book Fair isn’t much to look at from the outside. Passing by on Needham Street in Newton Highlands, you might even mistake it for a shuttered business.

Inside, though, the Book Fair is a bibliophile’s dream. The shelves seem to stretch forever, packed with everything from New York Times bestsellers to esoteric, hard-to-find remainders. Most of the books are sold at a 20 percent discount, while New York Times bestsellers get a 30 percent markdown.

Meanwhile, the Book Fair’s organic layout and funky ambience is a far cry from Borders or Barnes & Noble – which is exactly how its loyal customers like it.

There’s “less of the chain feeling” at the Book Fair, says Aimee Stone of Needham. “I like the gritty feeling of this. You’re in with the books.”

Last week, though, the Book Fair’s three co-owners announced that the 53-year-old store – which they call the largest independent bookstore in New England – is up for sale. The goal, says co-owner and COO Steve Gans, is to find a buyer who maintains the store’s character. To that end, they’ve hired broker Paul Siegenthaler, who arranged the recent sale of Cambridge’s Harvard Book Store.

Still, there’s no guarantee that a new owner will safeguard the Book Fair’s more pronounced idiosyncrasies, which include a huge discount-books inventory, an armada of miniature shopping carts and shelves arranged by publisher rather than author.

“I absolutely would not want it to modernize,” says Carrie Schmidt of Jamaica Plain. “I love the shopping carts! I love the way that the stacks are set up.”

The store’s logic can be confusing for the uninitiated. Some authors get their own turnstile; others don’t. What’s more, you’ll find foreign-language titles sharing a small space with chewable baby books and the latest offering from Dennis Lehane. But loyalists claim the unusual layout creates an appealingly serendipitous shopping experience.

“There’s a stack of books that I just walked by – these little books that I had when I was growing up, and I’ve never seen them again,” says Schmidt. “I would have had to go online to even remember that those books existed and that I wanted them — and there they are!”

Regular customers also lavish praise on the Book Fair’s staffers, who they claim are a cut above their big-box peers.

“People here seem to be much more knowledgeable,” says Rama Chandra of Newton. “They’ve been around here a long time.”

So has the Book Fair, which was founded in 1957 by Lou Strymish, a Harvard-trained chemist. (Today, Strymish’s sons Jon and David own the store with Gans.) But whether the store’s unusual character can survive another half-century remains to be seen.

“If you like it the way it is, and if somebody else could just take it and change it,” says Stone, “then it’s not the New England Mobile Book Fair anymore.”
 

About the Authors
Sarah Birnbaum
Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH News' State House reporter. Send her a news tip.
Adam Reilly Adam Reilly
Adam Reilly is a political reporter and associate producer for WGBH's Greater Boston.

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