150 Eastland Food Products workers went on a one-day strike Tuesday for better benefits, working conditions and respect on the job. Workers voted overwhelmingly to join UFCW Local 328 in May of 2016. The company, located at 69 Fletcher Avenue in Cranston, currently offers no paid vacations, no paid holidays, no personal days and offers most workers only minimum wage despite years of hard work and dedication. The union has been negotiating for two years and said that the latest company proposal is unacceptable which led to today’s strike.
The company is owned and managed by Antonio Demarco. At one point it appeared his son was helping to shuttle workers across the picket line. “Scabs,” said a worker disdainfully.
“We are fighting for better benefits. We are fighting for our rights,” said Delvina Garcia, who has worked at Eastland Food Products for 12 years. She has never had a vacation, a pay raise or health care through her job. “It’s been a long time struggle for many years. I went to the office a few times to ask for an increase in my wages, but the only increase that I got was more work.”
“The reason we are having this action is because for so long we haven’t had any vacation and I would like to be able to spend some quality time with my family,” said Victor Casto, an Eastland Food Products who has worked there for 14 years. “I would like that everyone here could enjoy vacation, holidays, sick days and make a better wage. This is why we decided to organize our union because without that, we can’t make the changes we need.”
As I took pictures and talked to workers, those walking the picket line called to the cars entering the company’s property to honor the picket and not go to work. The Cranston Police Department, summoned by management, told the picketers that they had to let cars through, though I only saw drivers dissuaded from entering, not prevented.
UFCW Local 328 and the workers have also filed a claim with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training to claim unpaid wages from Sunday and Holiday premium pay that amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“The reason we are out here today is because someone who works for a company, regardless of what they do, should be rewarded for that hard work and dedication to that company, in the form of wage increases and some paid time off to spend with their family,” said Timothy Melia, President of UFCW Local 328 and lead negotiator for the workers. “Many people have worked long and hard for many years to make Eastland a profitable company, and they should be entitled to share in that reward.”
The workers will return to work on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 at 7:00 AM.
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