Thursday, January 3, 2013

Teamster strike in Wash. is costing UNFI in lost business

UNFI's unfair treatment of our Teamster brothers and sisters in Washington is costing the company tens of thousands of dollars -- and could cost it tens of thousands more.

UNFI, or United Natural Foods, Inc., is the nation's largest distributor of organic, natural and specialty foods.

The company forced 168 Teamster workers and drivers from Local 117 to strike on Dec. 10 over dangerous working conditions and lousy pay and benefits. UNFI then hired permanent replacement workers. Teamsters called that "retaliatory, unlawful and frankly despicable."

Sustainable Food News reports Olympia Food Co-op supported the striking workers by refusing to order from UNFI for a week. That cost UNFI more than $100,000. Olympia Foods president, Harry Levine, said UNFI must stop breaking labor laws and bargain in good faith.

Sustainable Food News further tells us that Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets is threatening to quit doing business with UNFI because of the way it treats its employees. PCC's chief executive, Tracy Wolpert, said the company is obligated to maintain a viable business while supporting its fundamental values.

Wolpert wrote that workers have the right to "freely engage in collective bargaining, the right to equitable pay, fair benefits, and safe working conditions."

The company and Teamster representatives met on Dec. 20 in federal mediation, but there were no significant developments. Negotiations will resume on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Stay strong, brothers and sisters!