---- — Janitors authorize reps to call strike
BOSTON — Hundreds of unionized Massachusetts janitors have voted to authorize a committee negotiating a new contract with their employers to call a strike.
The vote yesterday comes as their contract is set to expire at month’s end. Janitors complain that employers offer them as few as 18 hours a week, a move that prevents them from qualifying as fulltime workers and deny them access to insurance provided by employers.
About 1,400 janitors represented by Local 615 of the Service Employees International Union voted yesterday by a standing vote to authorize a strike. The union cited reports of workers being met with illegal threats and intimidation.
The Local 615 of the SEIU represents 18,000 property service workers — including 14,000 janitors — in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The union says more fulltime jobs creates stronger economies.
Officials warn of peanut butter risk
BOSTON — Massachusetts and Rhode Island health officials say a peanut butter product is being tested for a possible link to a nationwide salmonella outbreak that has sickened people in other states.
The health departments said Friday three cases have occurred in Massachusetts and one in Rhode Island. They say 29 have been reported nationwide since June 11, and they’re investigating along with other states and federal health officials.
The officials said the outbreak may be linked to Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter Made with Sea Salt, in 16-ounce containers with “use by” dates of 5/23/2013 and 6/28/2013.
No samples have tested positive for the strain of salmonella involved, but the company has voluntarily removed it from stores. Consumers are advised to discard it. Health officials say some independent online sites may still be selling it.
Record bear hunting season likely in Maine
AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine hunting guides are telling state game officials that 2012 will go down in the record books as one of the best years ever to hunt bears in the state.
Guides are seeing record bear numbers as well as record-sized bear, including the new state record of 699 pounds this season. Many others are in the 600 and 500 pound weight classes.
State officials say Maine hasn’t had a bear hunting season like this since 1993, when the previous record 680-pound bear was taken.
This season’s record 699 pounder was claimed by Matt Knox of Waynesboro, Pa., who says he was stunned by the bear’s size.
Bears can be hunted with dogs until Oct. 26, and can be trapped until Oct. 31.
Trooper pleads not guilty to sex charges
WORCESTER, Mass. — A Massachusetts state trooper has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault charges his attorney blames on a contentious divorce
Thirty-eight-year-old Jason Willard of Auburn was arraigned Friday in Worcester Superior Court on three counts of indecent assault and battery and two counts of open and gross lewdness. Judge David Ricciardone continued his case to Nov. 9.
Willard was indicted last week. Prosecutors said the incidents allegedly occurred in 2008 when Willard was off duty and involved an 18-year-old girl.
Willard’s attorney tells WHDH-TV his client is “astonished” by the allegations he said recently surfaced in his divorce case. Michael Erlich said Willard “absolutely will fight these charges.”
— Associated Press