Our Opinion: Patience, caution, at Crane Stationery

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It has been a head-spinning couple of weeks for employees of Crane Stationery in North Adams. With bad feelings having needlessly emerged between the company and City Hall, it would probably be a good idea to slow down for the benefit of all parties. ("Crane Stationery got marching orders on reopening; CEO claims `retaliation'," Eagle, May 4.)

In late April it was announced that the company, whose Berkshire roots go back two centuries, would be closing in mid-June because of the bankruptcy of its leading competitor and the impact of five weeks of being closed as an unessential business under orders of Gov. Baker. Almost immediately it was announced that Mohawk Fine Papers of Cohoes, N.Y., which owns Crane Stationery, had successfully secured a $2 million federal Payroll Protection Program loan to cover its payroll.

In an email to employees Sunday, the company announced it would reopen Monday and begin addressing a backlog "in the coming weeks and months." Three hours later came another email announcing that the company would not open its doors on Monday.

Mayor Thomas Bernard had told the company that he wanted city health and building inspectors to assure that the building on Curran Highway was safe to reopen, a responsible decision given the COVID-19 pandemic and one within the mayor's purview. Crane has been deemed an essential business by the state because of certain medical stationery orders, but that would not apply to all of its business. The state's definition of what businesses are and are not essential provides wide latitude and can be open to interpretation.

Mohawk CEO and chairman Thomas D. O'Connor Jr. angrily claimed that the mayor was acting in a "retaliatory" fashion and was trying to "run the company out of town" it is unclear what Mayor Bernard would be retaliating against but is clear there is no reason why he would want to rid the city of a company that employs 229 people.

Re-opening Crane Stationery too soon on the basis of its medical stationery orders could jeopardize the health of employees and lead to an increase in cases in Berkshire County at a time when they appear to have stabilized. Crane Stationery is a deep-rooted and valuable Berkshire employer that everyone wants to see reopen, and not just for the short-term. As frustrating as it is for the company and employees, caution and patience are required at this point.



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