RI Jobs With Justice (RIJWJ) led a rally outside the Price Rite at 325 Valley St. in Providence Thursday afternoon to protest what the group called the company’s “anti-worker and anti-community business practices.” The Good Food & Good Jobs Coalition, made up of community organizations, workers and labor unions is calling out the supermarket for its low wages and its on-call scheduling practices. The coalition also maintains that the supermarket chain reserves the “better” produce for suburban markets and sends the lower quality produce to urban stores.
“Price Rite has made over $16 billion in sales and is ranked as one of the top ten highest earning grocery lines in the US,” said Michael Araujo, executive director of RIJWJ. “Price Rite CEO Joe Colalillo makes more than $45 thousand per hour, more than four times what the average Price Rite employee makes in a year. The vast majority of Price Rite employees are part timers who earn minimum wage or slightly more. RI minimum wage is just $9.60 an hour.”
The supermarket also engages in on-call scheduling. This policy requires that the worker call the store to find out if they are working that day or not. “This prevents employees from obtaining meaningful 2nd jobs, go to school, take care of elders, and raise their children,” said Araujo. Workers who are on-call literally have no idea if they are going to work or not until minutes before their shift starts.
The coalition also demands that Price Rite stock “clean healthy, culturally appropriate food.” In a letter sent to the store managers and CEO Colalillo the coalition says that “with investigation, we have found that there is a disparity in the way Price Rite carries and shows produce. In suburban stores we found clean displays, clear signage, healthy looking food. In the urban stores we found rot, dirty displays, and unclear or misleading signage.
“We believe that this is a matter of respect for our community, we demand respect.”
The coalition also asked for management to stay neutral during potential union elections and campaigns, writing, “We believe that through clear contract language workers and the community are best protected. Through the collective bargaining process stronger bonds are built.”
Members of the coalition entered the store and had a brief conversation with the store managers. The managers accepted the coalition letter and said that the protest outside could continue and the customers could be approached and spoken to as long as the protesters did not interfere with business.
You can watch a video of the action here: