Over 200 community members packed the Teamsters Union hall in Tukwila, WA on Saturday, January 19 to listen to workers tell their stories of how their employer - United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) - repeatedly violated their rights during contract negotiations that spanned a period of nine months leading up to the current strike at the company's Auburn distribution center.
"I've never seen a company like UNFI that treats their employees the way they treat us. They treat us wrong," said James Dial, one of the warehouse workers who was permanently replaced.
"I've worked with UNFI for eight years and I have seen the company change," said UNFI driver Dottie Dunthorn. "They've gotten to the point where they don't care about their employees. It's really sad."
UNFI delivery drivers and warehouse workers were joined at the event by community co-op activists, labor and faith leaders, other trade unionists and concerned community members.
The group collected over $1000 in donations for the Teamsters 117 - UNFI Workers' Hardship Fund, a fund established to provide financial relief to the workers who have endured the greatest financial hardship during the strike due to UNFI's unlawful actions.
Members of the Central Co-op in Seattle also announced that the store's employees will donate over $3,700 to the fund, in solidarity with the striking workers.
Many community members at the meeting pledged to leaflet Whole Foods stores throughout the region until UNFI agrees to return to the bargaining table, to bargain in good faith, and to reinstate all employees that it permanently replaced on December 13. As UNFI's largest customer, Whole Foods accounts for a sizable portion of the organic food giant's business. To date, Whole Foods has stood silently by and witnessed its supplier engaging in unethical business practices without attempting to hold the company accountable.
After the meeting, community members went home with a kit of materials that will allow them to take action to support the striking workers.
TAKE ACTION! If you were unable to attend the meeting on January 19, you can access a kit of materials that will help you hold UNFI accountable for bullying workers in Washington State. You can access the community action kit here.