UNFI says it has been bargaining in good faith with union drivers and warehouse workers at its Green Bay, Wisconsin, distribution center in since May 1. The workers are represented by Teamsters Local 662, which voted Aug. 24 to reject the company’s proposed contract and authorize a strike.
Craig Vandenheuvel, a 20-year UNFI/Supervalu employee and Teamsters chief steward, said the main issue is a change to health care benefits.
“Our health care is very important to all of us and our families. We’ve given up wage increases over the years to keep our high quality health care and there’s no way we’re going to let the company take it away,” Vandenheuvel said.
But UNFI says it recently delivered a six-year contract offer that continues to include a Teamster-sponsored health care plan that minimizes associate increases and reduces the family premium contribution beginning in the second year.
UNFI says the contract also provides associates with multi-year wage increases and continues contributions to the associates’ pension plan.
“Our contract offer in Green Bay demonstrates the commitment we have shown to our associates; one that meets their needs and provides our retailers with the continued support they need to remain successful in this competitive grocery environment,” said Paul Green, UNFI’s chief supply chain officer.
This past weekend, Teamsters Local 662 rejected UNFI’s offer, authorized a potential strike, and has not provided a counter offer for the company’s consideration.
The Wisconsin union members, who distribute food to grocery chains such as Festival Foods, County Market and Sentry, join what the Teamsters say is a growing movement of UNFI/Supervalu workers across the country on the verge of a significant labor dispute, adding that employees at several UNFI/Supervalu locations have either authorized strike action or are locked in major legal battles with the distributor.
UNFI’s Green said the company has “negotiated and entered into fair contracts with 10 local unions across the country” since its merger with Supervalu last October.
“We respect and value our associates and are committed to providing them with a wage and benefit contract that supports their continued growth and success,” Green said.
In preparation for all possible scenarios, UNFI has made contingency plans and taken necessary steps to protect its business and the continued operation of the Green Bay distribution center should a strike occur.
“A labor dispute is not in anyone’s best interest and frankly we’re disappointed that Teamsters Local 662 rejected our offer,” Green said. “We remain hopeful that our associates will reconsider before any further labor dispute occurs. We’re ready to get an agreement completed as soon as they are, but in the meantime have no choice but to make contingency plans in order to meet the needs of our customers.”