Drivers and warehouse workers, employed at the United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) distribution center in Auburn, sent a clear message to their employer on Saturday when they rejected the company’s Last, Best, and Final contract proposal and, in doing so, resoundingly passed a final strike vote.
“This vote demonstrates that these workers are prepared to fight for the respect they deserve,” said Tracey A. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117.
The central issues in bargaining have been a tight production standard and UNFI’s refusal to bargain about the large compensation gap between the company and its local competitors.
“In the highly-competitive grocery warehouse industry, UNFI is insisting on providing substandard wages and benefits to its employees so that it can continue to maintain an unfair advantage over its competition,” Thompson said.
“These workers are simply asking for their fair share from a highly-profitable corporation that is enriching itself on their labor,” Thompson said.
UNFI’s revenues have increased 83% in the last five years, and the company has maintained an average profit margin of over 18% during that time.
Yet despite soaring profits, UNFI compensates its employees at a rate of 25% less than the compensation provided by other major unionized grocery distributors in the Puget Sound area.
“UNFI is raking in record profits while cheating middle-class workers and their families out of the means to pay their bills and put food on the table,” Thompson said.
UNFI supplies organic and specialty foods to major supermarkets throughout the Puget Sound area, including Whole Foods, Safeway, and PCC. Teamsters Local 117 represents 168 drivers and warehouse workers at the company’s distribution center in Auburn.