Union workers on strike arrested, pepper sprayed by Pawtucket Police

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WLNE) — DHL workers on their eleventh week of strike were pepper sprayed by Pawtucket Police Friday.

Police say five union workers were arrested. Charges include disorderly conduct, simple assault, resisting arrest, and obstruction of an officer.

 Matthew Taibi, Principal Officer of Teamster Local 251, said the large crowds blocked the entrance of Northeast Transportation Services– a contracted provider of DHL. Police tried to move the crowd, sparking aggression on both sides.

“She got pushed to the ground, knee to her face, head on her back, another person was literally pepper sprayed in the face I was in the mix, I got pulled out, it was horrible,” Rondelle Walker, a courier for DHL, told ABC 6 News. 

What was meant to be a peaceful day, turned chaotic. Police arrested at least five people, and those on strike tell ABC 6 pepper spray was used on others.  

“Today, there was a lot of, a lot of, I would say restraint, control, it’s a frustrating situation for everyone involved — for workers out on strike for a long time, we’re certainly disappointment in the outcome,” said Taibi.

Workers, shaken from the events, reminded ABC 6 why they were out there in the first place.  

“It was an embarrassment, not for us, cause we’re out here standing for what we believe, and we believe that we deserve a fair contract. We’ve been out here 11 weeks, not one time has we had any coverage, we’re fighting for our lives out here,” Walker added. 

The workers are asking for better wages and health care. Gov. Dan McKee stopped by to show his support but was gone before the arrests. 

“We’re here to support all our workers in the state of Rhode Island, my number one goal is to raise peoples incomes, so my take away here is that I’m gonna be making contact to the company directly, after I meet with union representatives in early in the week, and we’ll see whether we can kind of get people talking again,” McKee said. 

Categories: News, Rhode Island