Workers at Johnson Brothers of RI Demand a Fair Contract
(NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I.)—Dozens of Teamsters from all over New England showed up early Tuesday morning to stand in solidarity with their seven striking brothers at Johnson Brothers of RI, the state’s exclusive distributor of Gallo Wine products. Afterwards, they made their way to Haxton’s Tollgate Liquors in Warwick where they spent several hours hand-billing customers, holding banners and cheering each time the Teamster tractor trailer sounded its air horn as it drove by.
“It’s been 83 days since the strike began over unfair labor practices committed by the company along with unresolved wage, benefit and working condition issues,” said Teamsters Local 251 Secretary-Treasurer Matt Taibi. “This small group of drivers has stood up to Goliath and continues to stand strong to show the company they will not end their strike until they get a fair first contract.”
“I’m so proud of my coworkers,” said Alex Pelaez, a 19-year driver at the company. “With such a small group we have managed the 24-hour-a-day picket line, conducted ambulatory picketing when out of state replacement drivers make deliveries, leafletted liquor stores and national restaurant chains, demonstrated at our boss’ home on Juneteenth and his vacation home on Independence Day, and got resolutions signed by business owners and politicians.”
“At least a dozen issues still remain unresolved in these negotiations,” said Aaron Wazlavek, Teamsters lead negotiator for the workers. “I do remain hopeful that a deal can be worked out. We’ll keep walking the picket line one day longer and each day stronger, putting pressure on the company until these workers receive the fair treatment, respect and dignity on the job that they demand.”
“The company’s proposals are an attack on the rights of workers,” said Teamsters Business Agent Matt Maini. “This company is run by mostly white bosses. They pay as little as $15 per hour for their workers who are mostly people of color and they expect those workers to pay up to $20,000 in out-of-pocket premiums and deductibles for a family healthcare plan. This after they just built a new $7 million warehouse. It just shows they want to treat their loyal, long-term workers like second class citizens.”
“We encourage everyone to follow the strikers’ activities on our General Teamsters Local 251 Facebook page. Also, please encourage Rhode Island bars, liquor stores and restaurants to refuse deliveries of Johnson Brothers of RI products like Barefoot Wine and High Noon Seltzers until these workers get the fair first contract they deserve,” Taibi said.
Teamsters Local 251 represents over 6,300 workers in a wide variety of industries throughout Rhode Island and parts of southern Massachusetts. For more information, go to https://www.facebook.com/teamsters251/