Our Opinion: Buffet workers victims of corporate indifference

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The closing of the Old Country Buffet in Pittsfield, a blow to workers and loyal customers, is particularly shameful because it came without any advance notice.

Like State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield, we would all "like to think that a company would treat its employees in a better manner than this." (Eagle, February 5). But as we have seen in recent months in the Berkshires, this is how restaurant chains, largely unanswerable to unions, treat workers.

Most of the suddenly jobless workers are in no position to accept the parent company's thoughtful invitation to apply for jobs at two Old Country Buffet restaurants in eastern Massachusetts — from where they would probably get laid off anyway. They are now at the mercy of the tough Berkshire job market.

Last month, members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association won a financial settlement because North Adams Regional Hospital closed without the required 60 days notice. However, federal law applied in this case because NARH employed more than 100 people (roughly 530) while Old Country Buffet only employed about 30 in Pittsfield. The parent company did close 74 buffet restaurants nationwide Thursday, which would well exceed 100 workers, but a collective appeal would be difficult to pursue without the help of a union or association.

The Old Country closing makes the case for unions. And with presidential candidates extolling the virtues of the struggling American worker, Washington should extend protection against closing businesses without warning to workers at small companies.


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