(MENDON, Mass.) – Workers who have been on strike against Johnson Brothers of Rhode Island since May 26 marked the new federal holiday, Juneteenth, by protesting at the home of their boss. Johnson Brothers of RI is the exclusive distributor of Gallo Wine products in the Ocean State. Teamsters Local 251 has been negotiating a first contract with the company since November 2020.
The workers gathered at Johnson Brothers of Rhode Island President Keith Miranda’s home early in the morning. They wore their strike signs, carried Black Lives Matter signs, chanted and gave flyers out describing their struggle in the exclusive Mendon, Mass., neighborhood.
“This small group of 12 workers is comprised predominantly of people of color. As we celebrate the emancipation of Black Americans on Juneteenth for the first time as a federal holiday, the truth of the matter is we still have corporate enslavement in America,” said Teamsters Local 251 Business Agent Matt Maini.
“Some of these workers make as little as $15 per hour. How does Johnson Brothers expect them to pay up to $20,000 per year in premiums and out of pocket expenses for a family medical plan, put food on the table, keep a roof over their head and save for retirement with wages like that?” asked Matt Taibi, Teamsters Local 251 Secretary-Treasurer. “Before the strike even began one of the workers was already homeless. Another was living in an apartment with minimal furniture, very little food in the refrigerator, had to take out loans to stave off evictions, and took buses to get to work.”
“We have nothing, so we have nothing to lose by striking this company,” said Alex Pelaez, a 19-year driver for the company. “Our labor built that mansion for Keith Miranda. He gives his lawn better treatment than he does his workers. This is why we have asked the Rhode Island public to not purchase any Gallo wine products like High Noon Hard Seltzer or Barefoot Wine until we get a fair contract.”
“We’ve gotten great community support in Rhode Island for these workers,” Maini said. “Many of the bars, restaurants and liquor stores have refused to take deliveries from the out of state replacement workers during the strike and we believe those numbers will increase over time.”
Johnson Brothers Distributing is based in St. Paul, MN and has been in operation since 1953. It is one of the largest family-owned liquor distributorships in the United States with locations in 21 states.
Teamsters Local 251 represents over 6,300 workers in a wide variety of industries throughout Rhode Island. For more information, go to https://teamsterslocal251.org/