METHUEN — Police arrested a truck driver who allegedly waved his middle finger at strikers at the Shaw's warehouse yesterday and then allegedly assaulted a police officer.
Strikers said the trucker drove erratically near the picket line in front of the Shaw's warehouse on Danton Drive.
"The driver was trying to run us over," said picketer Pedro Estevez, 41, of Lawrence.
A police officer monitoring the picket line spoke to the driver and the driver tried to open the truck door at the officer and then drove away, strikers said.
Police charged the driver, Robert Dickel Jr., 45, of Middletown, Pa., with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He was being held last night on $5,000 cash bail and was due to be arraigned this morning in Lawrence District Court.
Strikers identified the truck as a white tractor-trailer with a Greatwide logo on the side. Greatwide is a trucking company that works for grocery retailers. A Greatwide official did not return a call.
Shaw's is investigating and cooperating with police, said spokeswoman Judy Chong.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 791 represents 300 employees at the cold-storage facility, where workers have been on strike since March 7. A dozen workers stood outside the plant holding signs in the pouring rain yesterday.
"This isn't a joke," said Michael Beckett, 34, of Haverhill, who insisted that strikers have obeyed the law.
Employees voted 228-8 on March 7 to reject a contract offer and go on strike. Since then, workers have been surviving on $100 a week from the union and donated food.
Beckett, a father of three, is worried about paying bills like his $975 monthly rent.
"Right now, it's unclear if I can collect unemployment or not. So for the first time in my life, I had to sign up for welfare," said Beckett, a food selector, who has been working there for 12 years.