The Billerica-based auto auction company where five people were killed
and several others injured in May after an SUV veered into a crowd is facing a $267,081 fine by federal labor officials for several “serious” workplace violations uncovered during a six-month investigation of the incident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Thursday it has issued 16 citations against Lynnway Auto Auction for violations that included exposing employees to motor vehicle hazards, having blocked exit routes, and failing to maintain a workplace “hazard communication” program. OSHA also cited TrueBlue Inc., a staffing firm — doing business as PeopleReady — for assigning workers to Lynnway Auto Auction, thereby exposing them to potential hazards, including being crushed or struck by vehicles. The Dover, N.H.-based company faces a $12,675 fine. Lynnway Auto president Jim Lamb said in a statement that since the May 3 incident, the company has “taken a number of measures to ensure a safe environment for our customers and employees. The majority of the OSHA citations Lynnway received, while unrelated to the accident site, have either been resolved or are in the process of being corrected.” TrueBlue could not be reached for comment. The bulk of the fines against Lynnway Auto, about $140,000, involved two repeat violations that the company had been cited for after an investigation in 2014. That investigation led to a $6,300 fine, which was later reduced to $2,200 after Lynnway Auto agreed to make safety improvements.
— KATHELEEN CONTI
Disputes raging over licensing
Long-simmering tensions between the activist and business wings of the Massachusetts marijuana community boiled over last week, after several medical dispensaries urged the state to grant them a significant headstart in the recreational market while delaying or limiting the licensure of less established players. In a controversial memo submitted to the Cannabis Control Commission, the dispensaries argued the agency must divide implementation of the recreational industry into two phases if it hopes to meet an aggressive July 1 target date next year for the start of pot sales. Under the dispensaries’ plan, the commission at first would incorporate many of the existing rules and systems for medical cannabis, giving them an early shot at selling recreational pot. Meanwhile, the dispensaries want the state to put off licensing cooperatives of small-scale marijuana farmers and limit a program intended to boost minority participation in the industry. Activists say the proposal would undermine a key provision in the new state law granting expedited licensing to companies that would promote economic empowerment of those arrested and incarcerated for marijuana offenses at disproportionately high rates — namely, minority and low-income communities. The dispensaries said those companies should receive expedited licensing only if they agree to operate as nonprofits and invest their revenues in “economic empowerment initiatives.” Activists called that idea protectionist and racist, saying it would simply steer more of the spoils from regulated pot sales to existing operators and well-off investors. — DAN ADAMS
Key piece of Widett Circle up for sale
Three years after it abruptly surfaced as Boston’s next big development hot spot, a key piece of Widett Circle is on the market. The New Boston Food Market will put nearly 20 acres sandwiched between South Boston and the South End up for sale, kicking off what real estate analysts expect will be a fierce bidding war for a prime piece of land near downtown. Bound by busy roads and rail lines, Widett Circle has been home to two dozen meat and seafood wholesalers for nearly a half-century but had been largely overlooked within Boston’s real estate world until emerging as the centerpiece location of Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid. With the Olympics failure, the property has surged to the top of the development agenda in a city desperate for places to grow. — TIM LOGAN
Au Bon Pain
Au Bon Pain
Panera Bread announced on Wednesday that it would acquire Boston-based Au Bon Pain, a move that will reunite two bakery-cafes that share the same starter yeast. Ron Shaich, who built Au Bon Pain into a national brand and used it to launch Panera, will step down as chief executive of Panera and serve as chairman of the combined company. He will be succeeded by Blaine Hurst, currently Panera’s president. Both executives work out of Needham. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Au Bon Pain currently operates more than 300 stores. The ingredients of both companies can be traced to a cafe called the Cookie Jar that Shaich opened on Winter Street in downtown Boston in 1980, shortly after finishing his MBA at Harvard Business School. A year later, he merged the concept with a small three-bakery chain called Au Bon Pain and began selling healthy, low-cost meals marketed as a quality alternative to fast food. Over the next decade, Shaich and his late partner, Louis Kane, built Au Bon Pain by focusing on urban hubs, taking the company public in 1991. In 1993, it paid $23 million to acquire St. Louis Bread Company, an upstart suburban bakery, with 20 locations in the Midwest. Shaich eventually took the St. Louis Bread company concept national under the name Panera and built it and Au Bon Pain in tandem.
— JANELLE NANOS
to retire from State Street
to retire from State Street
State Street Corp. chief executive Jay Hooley will retire from the job at the Boston-based financial services giant at the end of 2018, after more than 30 years there. The change in leadership atop one of Boston’s biggest companies was announced Tuesday. Ron O’Hanley, a former Fidelity executive who has been running State Street’s investment management division for the past two years, was tapped to succeed Hooley. In the interim, O’Hanley will be president and chief operating officer of the entire company. Meanwhile, Mike Rogers, who had been in those positions, will retire at the end of this year. Hooley, 60, will remain as chairman through 2019. A well-known presence in Boston’s business community, Hooley led State Street through much of its recovery from the Great Recession and has tried to reposition the company, which provides services to investment firms, as a technology business. As part of that effort to digitize the company’s services and approach, Hooley oversaw several rounds of layoffs while facing pressure from shareholders at various times to control costs. The company’s workforce has still grown significantly on his watch. — JON CHESTO
Neighborhood Health Plan offering option that waives out-of-pocket costs on common treatments
Neighborhood Health Plan is offering new insurance options that waive members’ out-of-pocket costs for a slate of common treatments and prescription drugs, an unusual step aimed at drawing new customers. Typically, members of commercial health plans must pay copayments and other costs to see a doctor or obtain a prescription. But Neighborhood said it will start waiving those costs for services including nutritional counseling for diabetics, rehabilitation for heart patients, and acupuncture and physical therapy for patients suffering from pain. Neighborhood is the first insurer in the country to waive out-of-pocket costs for members who choose certain treatments other than opioids for managing pain, executives said. The nonprofit insurer is also planning to waive costs for 11 common drugs, including those used to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and depression. — PRIYANKA DAYAL MCCLUSKEY