USA: Labor union opposes beer monopoly in Rhode Island

Workers at Mancini Beverage are urging the public to contact state authorities to object to the company's planned purchase of a local Budweiser distribution facility as it will create a monopoly and hurt workers. Additionally, the union is fighting to keep its members safe while Mancini Beverage is currently under investigation for their COVID-19 prevention protocol lapses.

The workers believe that the proposed liquor license transfer from McLaughlin & Moran Inc., the exclusive wholesale distributor of Budweiser in the state, to a newly formed Mancini family-owned business creates a monopoly in the beer, wine and spirits industry in Rhode Island and severely restricts competition. The Mancini family also own Rhode Island's sole wholesalers of major brands like Miller, Coors, Heineken and Corona.

Mancini Beverage was founded in 1959 and is up to date a family-run business. The group includes companies like Rhode Island Distributing, C&C Distributors/World Class, Martignetti Wines, Northeast Wines, Northeast Beverage of Connecticut and Centrex Distributing. Mancini runs today a fleet of 75 trucks daily, delivering to over 8,500 retailers, bars, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores state-wide in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

A request for an antitrust investigation by the Rhode Island Attorney General's office concerning the transaction has been made by Matt Taibi, representative of the local labor union.

"This proposed merging of all the biggest selling brands of beers under the Mancini umbrella of companies would not be good for workers, small businesses, or the general public," Taibi said. "The shell game the Mancini's are trying to play in order to avoid the appearance of a monopoly in the liquor industry needs to be exposed and stopped in its tracks."

"As part of a 2016 U.S. Justice Department antitrust lawsuit settlement, Anheuser-Busch InBev agreed to divest of its ownership of Miller/Coors in the United States. This proposed transaction by the Mancini's with the approval of Anheuser-Busch is clearly a violation of the spirit of that settlement. There were serious antitrust concerns raised by the U.S. Attorney General's office over a single corporation having control over many of the same brands of beer that would be merged under the Mancini umbrella in Rhode Island if they are allowed to slip this purchase past an unsuspecting public," Taibi said.

Complaints from Mancini Beverage's current workforce over keeping them safe from COVID-19 were also raised at an October 30 hearing held by the Department of Business Regulation (DBR) regarding the proposed liquor license transfer.

In response, the state Department of Health announced an investigation was being conducted at the Mancini owned company. Several Mancini workers have contracted COVID-19 and workers report that the company has failed to comply with public health experts' recommendations for containing the spread of COVID-19. This could turn the company's merged operations into a hub for spreading the virus to a hospitality industry that is already struggling to survive.

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