Workers at the United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) distribution center in Auburn, Wash., located at 22 30th St. NE, have gone on strike in response to what they say is the company’s refusal to negotiate over mandatory subjects of bargaining and other unlawful actions. Picket lines were established at 7 p.m. Monday.
“UNFI is not the company it pretends to be. Instead of upholding its stated commitment to sustainable practices and social responsibility, UNFI is mistreating its workers and demonstrating a complete disregard of federal labor law,” said Tracey A. Thompson, secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local 117.
The National Labor Relations Board currently is investigating UNFI for 45 violations of federal labor law, according to a union news release. The charges include allegations that UNFI engaged in worker surveillance, intimidation and retaliation, that it refused to bargain in good faith, and that it illegally reassigned bargaining unit work.
Negotiations between UNFI and its 165 represented warehouse workers and drivers began earlier this year. A major sticking point in negotiations has been the company’s refusal to fulfill its legal obligation to bargain over the compensation gap between UNFI and other major grocery distributors in the area, the release says.
“UNFI is raking in record profits while refusing to provide middle-class workers and their families their fair share of the profits,” Thompson added.
The contract for union members at UNFI expired Feb. 29; an extension agreement expired at the end of August.
“The success of this company was built off our backs. But rather than treating us with respect, UNFI is spending hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to intimidate us into accepting a substandard proposal,” said Robert Jurey, a 13-year warehouse worker at UNFI.
The release adds that, before the strike began, Teamsters Local 117 picketed UNFI delivery trucks at the US Foods distribution center in Fife on Dec. 5, alerting UNFI and its customers of the possibility that a strike was imminent. The Teamsters also picketed UNFI trucks Dec. 6 at the Safeway distribution center in Auburn and at the Supervalu distribution center in Tacoma.