Hundreds of UFCW members and staff, workers and labor and community allies from across New England gathered in Providence, R.I., last week to support the reinstatement of Joe Sorrentino—a worker at a Wakefern-owned PriceRite Supermarket in North Providence, RI.
According to charges filed by the UFCW Local Union 328 with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Sorrentino has been punished for standing up for a union at his workplace. Workers and community members also rallied to support passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill which would make it easier for workers like Joe to join unions without fear of retaliation.
Sorrentino and other PriceRite employees have been working to organize with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), but have faced a campaign of company harassment and intimidation. This harassment has been unfair and unnecessary, since workers at most other stores that Wakefern owns and/or supplies already belong to the UFCW and have a voice on the job.
“Joe Sorrentino bravely stood up for his rights, and his coworkers as he continued to try and form a union despite unfair resistance from his employer,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, founding Executive Director of American Rights at Work (ARAW), in a statement of support that was read at the rally. “His subsequent demotion is a terrible injustice and sends a chilling message to workers that you will be punished for wanting to have a voice on the job.
"American Rights at Work," her statement continued, " and our allies are even more emboldened to fight for swift passage of the Employee Free Choice Act to ensure Joe and workers everywhere have a free choice to join a union and a chance at a better life.”
Shortly after receiving national attention for speaking out on behalf of the Employee Free Choice Act at an ARAW-organized event in Washington, DC, press conference on January 13, Sorrentino was demoted and given a pay cut--the kind of harassment by corporations against workers that the Employee Free Choice Act seeks to eliminate.
Local 328 has filed charges with the NLRB, seeking reinstatement of Sorrentino’s pay, and position as a Night Crew Chief. “If the Employee Free Choice was already a law, my employer would not have been able to treat me like they did. I would have been able to speak out without fear of retaliation,” said Sorrentino at the event.