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PHILADELPHIA - After a five-day labor strike that ran from March 1-5, management from the Philadelphia Regional Produce Market along with members of the Teamsters Local 929 announced March 8 that they reached a settlement.

The groups held a joint press conference outside the market on the morning of March 8 after reaching an agreement on the evening of March 5.

In a subsequent interview with The Produce News, Sonny DiCrecchio, executive director of the market, said that he didn't expect the strike and was very happy that it was over.

Mr. DiCrecchio said, "Negotiators worked very hard to reach a fair and equitable agreement. If we're going to compete, we must develop a new framework for our labor issues. This means offering fair wages and benefits to all of our employees, and building a workforce that provides top-quality service on a regular six-day a week schedule."

Rocky Bryan Jr., president of Teamsters Local 929, told The Produce News, "There was give and take on both sides" to end the strike and sign a three- year work contract. "I think the food center [employers] gave more than they wanted to give."

Mr. Bryan added that his union looks forward to working this fall from the new Philadelphia market, armed with the new contract.

Louis Penza, a family owner of Pinto Bros. Inc. on the market and the head of the market's negotiating committee, said, "I believe we reached an agreement that was fair to both sides. This gives us the stability that we were looking for going into the new market."

The agreement offers a wage increase, a solid health plan, and the prospect of pensions that are fully funded and protected.

Jimmy Storey, president of the market and owner of Quaker City Produce Co. Inc., said that the market remained open during the strike and managed to maintain its business level.

John Vena, a member of the market's board and owner of John Vena Inc., added, "I think the settlement helps set the stage for getting us ready for the new market."

Mr. Vena cited two key strengths of the new contract. First, there is a clear cap for employer contributions to health-care benefits. Second, the practice of paying double time for work on Sundays will cease at the end of calendar year 2010. This will enable a new, competitive and affordable culture at the new market of working six days a week, which will begin on Sundays.