This page is set up to provide updates to Teamsters 117 members who worked at UNFI's warehouse in Tacoma and were unlawfully laid off by the company. Our Union is defending an Arbitration Award that UNFI is challenging in federal court.
Our goal is to fight the Company in court and uphold the Arbitrator's Award that allowed members to transfer to Centralia with the same wages and benefits that they had in Tacoma. When there are developments in the case or other news that impacts Teamster families, we will post it here.
To receive updates via text message, text "Teamsters FUNFI" to 313131. Please understand that the litigation process is a lengthy one and there may be several weeks between updates. If you have questions, please post them in the comments below understanding that our legal team is busy and will answer them when their schedule allows.
UNFI NEWS TICKER
January 13, 2020
As many of you know, our Union filed and won and Arbitration Award related to the transfer of work to Centralia. Unfortunately, UNFI has refused honor the Arbitration decision and has instead filed appeals with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and in Federal Court. The following updates are related to the litigation over UNFI’s appeal:
Although litigation is slow-moving, we are committed to keeping you updated with posts and text alerts as we progress through this process. To receive a text that an update has been posted, please text “Teamsters FUNFI” to 313131. If you have questions, please post them in the comments below understanding that our legal team is busy and will answer them when their schedule allows.
January 3, 2020
As many of you, know our Union filed numerous Unfair Labor Practice charges (ULP’s) with the National Labor Relations Board over the last year alleging that UNFI engaged in interference, disparaging communications, surveillance, unilateral changes and more. Although these charges are unrelated to the Arbitration and the ongoing litigation over the award (appeal), we feel it is important to keep you updated on the progress:
As mentioned above, UNFI is mandated to mail you a letter setting forth UNFI’s legal obligations to its employees under the National Labor Relations Act. We expect that letter to be mailed out within the next week or two. This letter will not require any further action from you. Although this may seem insignificant, it marks another Teamster win against this employer that couldn’t be possible without the involvement and testimony of many of you.
We have asked our legal team to draft an update related to the litigation over the Arbitration award and the appeal process. We intend on providing that update soon.
Teamsters 117 establishes the UNFI Hardship Fund designed to assist members from UNFI's Tacoma facility who are experiencing extreme financial hardship as a result of being unlawfully laid off by UNFI. If you are a UNFI member who worked at the Tacoma facility and you are facing financial hardship, please apply for assistance here.
October 7, 2019
Arbitrator Joseph Duffy rules unequivocally for the Union stating that members of Teamsters 117 shall be allowed to transfer to Centralia under the same terms and conditions that they have in Tacoma. View the Arbitration Award here.
UNFI/SuperValu negotiations committee is committed to protecting our members rights under their contract and under the Arbitrator's award.
UNFI arrived without their lead negotiator and unprepared to bargain with Teamsters Local 117 and Local 313 when they met with the Union on Thursday and Friday in Tukwila to discuss severance packages for Teamsters who are facing layoffs by the Company. As a result, the two-day negotiations session resulted in little progress.
In the last few weeks, more than 70 UNFI employees working at the Tacoma warehouse have been laid off with the remaining employees to be laid off over the next 30 days.
“UNFI is not interested in negotiating a quality severance package for the majority of our members and their families whose lives have been severely disrupted by the Company’s decision to relocate operations from Tacoma to Centralia,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “We came ready to negotiate and we formally proposed to accept an offer the Company had made on October 1 without a single change – not even a comma – but the Company rejected their own proposal.”
The Union is consider filing additional charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over unlawful regressive bargaining tactics.
"UNFI is not interested in negotiating a reasonable severance package for the majority of our members."
UNFI is continuing to refuse to honor a neutral arbitrator’s decision to allow employees at the Company’s Tacoma warehouse to transfer to its Centralia facility with the same wages and terms and conditions that the Tacoma employees have been working under.
“Arbitrator Joseph Duffy ruled unequivocally for the Union in awarding full transfer rights to our members with the wages, benefits, and other protections,” Scearcy said. “His decision is legally sound and upholds contract language that the Company agreed to in negotiations. Not only did UNFI agree to the contract language enforced by Arbitrator Duffy, but it also agreed that arbitration decisions would be final and binding. We are confident that the courts will side with the Arbitrator and rule to make whole our members for any losses they may have incurred while they were unlawfully laid off.”
UNFI has a history of labor unrest with the Teamsters. In December 2012, members of Teamsters Local 117 employed at UNFI’s distribution center in Auburn entered into a 9-week strike over a number of alleged violations of federal labor law.
UNFI Teamsters in Tacoma protest the company's failure to make timely health and welfare and retirement payments to the Trust.
Teamsters at UNFI’s warehouse in Tacoma celebrated yesterday after an arbitrator ruled that union members shall be allowed to transfer to Centralia under the same terms and conditions that they have in Tacoma. The arbitrator also awarded transfer rights and back pay to any employees who are facing layoffs, which are scheduled to start at the facility later this week.
“I’m prouder to be a Teamster now than I’ve ever been in 30 years,” said Greg Wiest, a shop steward and forklift driver at the facility. “This is not only big for us, but it’s big for the entire labor movement. The talk in the warehouse since the decision is that a lot of us will be going down to Centralia. We’re pretty excited – morale’s way up today. Now we know that we have a job.”
"I’m prouder to be a Teamster now than I’ve ever been in 30 years."
Earlier in the year, UNFI announced that it would be shutting down the Tacoma warehouse and moving operations to a new facility in Centralia. The union filed a grievance after UNFI refused to honor clear contract language that laid out the terms and conditions of the move. The contract states: “…all employees working under the terms of this agreement at the old facility shall be afforded the opportunity to work at the new facility under the same terms and conditions and without any loss of seniority or other contractual rights or benefits.”Read more
Monty Johnson has worked his forklift for twenty-four years at the SUPERVALU warehouse, later purchased by UNFI.
In the dim interior of the UNFI warehouse in Tacoma, you have to be quick on your feet. With short beeps, forklifts and pellet jacks zooming by, there is no time to waste. Teamsters who work here know their jobs well and do them efficiently.
Perhaps no one is better at it than Monty Johnson. Monty has never missed a day of work in all combined twenty-four years of working at the SUPERVALU warehouse which was recently purchased by the food giant UNFI. Not a sick day and rarely any vacation days, even when it meant losing the accumulated hours, the warehouse is his bread and air.
When the company went through layoffs and he had to submit for his severance, he did so with a heavy heart. Soon they remembered his tireless work ethic and asked him to come back. He did so in a heartbeat. The warehouse was his home – the place he knew inside and out. He came back to his old forklift, and it was like he never left. Dashing between rows of shelves stacked up to the ceiling, Monty doesn’t need a chart to decipher the numbers indicating which products go on which shelves. He knows them by heart. Hundreds upon hundreds of slots, this maze to an external observer is a familiar tune to him.
Teamsters at the warehouse waste no time. They are quick, efficient and ready to flash a smile.
One day the company president got a hold of him and asked: “Are you the guy who never missed a day in this place? Why did you do that?” What he didn’t understand was that when Monty came to Washington State in the 90s looking for a stable job to care for his young family, this union job offered back then by SUPERVALU gave him a jump-start to a secure life, and for that Monty is eternally grateful. You can’t tell by his energetic smile, but his kids are all grown up now, and he has welcomed grandchildren to his family.
When Monty shows up to work every single day and pours his heart out, he doesn’t do it to compound profits for shareholders who wouldn’t step into his warehouse for an hour. The product of his daily work is getting food from the warehouse to the supermarket shelves on time so that thousands of people in Pierce County can buy food that was kept cool, fresh, and undamaged.
For Monty, it is the Teamster sisters and brothers who work at warehouse that make the place like home.
It wasn’t Monty’s or any of his co-workers’ decision to sell the warehouse to UNFI, relocate it to Centralia, or try to fight the union workers and squeeze their livelihood in an attempt to eke out a slightly fatter margin of profit. Neither will they succumb to company pressure after dedicating a lifetime to this work.
Monty sees his workplace pulled apart to be relocated and shakes his head. “The new company is doing things to accommodate themselves and are not respecting the workers who do the daily grinding work of making the company successful. They don’t understand that if they take care of us, we take care of them.”
Teamsters Mari Jane Friel (l) and Anthony McKinney (r) take their talents out to the broader membership.
Mari Jane Friel and Anthony McKinney are a couple of stand-out union activists. Both have excelled at building a strong union in their respective workplaces.
Mari Jane is a roads utility worker at King County. She ramped up her union involvement when the Janus court case loomed with its threat of open shop. Anthony comes out of the grocery industry, where he and a fellow shop steward orchestrated a powerful workplace action to stop their employer from skimming their work.
Both Anthony and Mari Jane recently had a chance to come on board at Local 117 as lost-timers. Our union negotiated a leave of absence with their employers and picked up their wages and benefits while they were away from their jobs.Read more
Teamsters at UNFI/Supervalu are united and won't be pushed around by an employer who is intent on maximizing profits at their expense.
Imagine coming home from work, you sit your family down, and have tell them your job is being relocated hundreds of miles away. Your employer is offering no security with regard to your union contract, your wages, seniority, and benefits.
This is the reality for our members employed at the UNFI/Supervalu grocery distribution centers in Auburn and Tacoma.
After acquiring Supervalu last year, UNFI abruptly announced that they would be moving the work from both facilities to Chehalis and Ridgefield.
The proposed move raises critical questions for our members and their families. Will they remain Teamsters? Will the terms and conditions of their current contract apply at the new locations? Will they retain their seniority rights? What will their severance package look like if they are unable to make the move?
"Teamsters at UNFI/Supervalu won't be bullied into forfeiting their rights."
Hundreds of members from the group and their families met at our Union Hall in Tukwila on March 16 to discuss these questions and set priorities. The group met again for another update on Saturday, March 30.
"This is everyone's future," said Annette Pitchford, a 33-year Teamster Shop Steward who works inventory control at the UNFI/Supervalu facility in Tacoma. "It is essential that we stay together and you can really feel that in the warehouse right now."
Our union's principal officer John Scearcy was joined by previous Local 117 Secretary-Treasurers Tracey Thompson and John Williams to address the group.
"We are working to ensure that our members' rights are protected under their contract and under the law," Secretary-Treasurer Scearcy said. "Teamsters at UNFI/Supervalu won't be bullied into forfeiting their rights. They are united and prepared to fight to protect their livelihoods."
Our union team gathers on the first day of contract negotiations with SuperValu.
Over the weekend, Teamsters who work in SuperValu’s grocery warehouse in Tacoma voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new three-year contract. The contract provides annual wage increases, excellent health and welfare coverage, and retirement security for over 200 members of Local 117 and their families.
“One of the highlights for me was ensuring full maintenance of our medical benefits,” said Anthony McKinney, a shop steward who served on our union’s negotiations committee. “A lot of my co-workers are on their way to having children. They’ll see the incredible benefit of keeping this medical coverage in our contract.”
"They’ll see the incredible benefit of keeping this medical coverage..."
The agreement maintains industry standards and aligns with other Teamster grocery contracts, including those at Safeway and Fred Meyer. This is a major accomplishment given the dramatic changes and consolidation in the industry.
A little over a year ago, SuperValu purchased Unified Grocers for $390 million. Teamsters who had worked in Unified’s Seattle warehouse moved down to the SuperValu facility in Tacoma.Read more
Our union team gathers on the first day of contract negotiations with the SuperValu.
Teamsters at Supervalu were having none of it. The company had brought in out-of-town temps to operate forklifts at its distribution center in Tacoma. The temps were being prepped to do Teamster work in a Teamster warehouse. It was a classic case of skimming and, if allowed, would set a dangerous precedent just as our group was heading into contract negotiations.
The shop steward on shift, Anthony McKinney, drew a firm line with management. "I talked to the GM, Steve LaBard, and expressed how I felt about having temps in our facility," he said. LaBard promised to send them home.
But the next day the temps were back again. At the start of his shift, McKinney was pulled into the office by the West Regional VP, who told him the company's plans had changed: The temps would no longer be used to operate forklifts; they would train our members on the forklifts instead.
Forklift training, as McKinney knew, is also Local 117 work. The skimming violation would still be in play as long as the temps remained in the warehouse. Clearly, the company had not gotten the message.
That's when McKinney and another shop steward, Greg Wiest, made the call. If the temps stayed, all 80 Teamsters on swing shift were going to walk. The stewards would give the company until 3:25pm to get the temps off of facility property.
Word spread quickly through the warehouse. The crew gathered outside the office, while McKinney, Wiest, and other rank-and-file leaders went in to deliver the message to management. "We told them how we were being disrespected, how we weren't being listened to, and that we were going to walk," Wiest said.
"I don't think they expected the solidarity that our group showed."
The mangers were flummoxed, the deadline passed, and just like that the group shut down one of the largest grocery distribution centers in the Pacific Northwest.
With their entire workforce on the way out, the company had no choice but to capitulate. They agreed to get the temps off the floor. But the stewards weren't taking any chances. "We wanted to see them walk off the property before going back to work," Wiest said. So management rounded up the temps and walked them out.
After the action, there were a lot of high fives and handshaking. Word spread to graveyard and day shift. The story of the workers' resolve will likely ripple across the grocery industry. It is especially remarkable given that they had just finished navigating the impact of a merger with Unified Grocers that added dozens of Local 117 members to the warehouse a few months ago.
For McKinney and Wiest, the group's unity sends a powerful message to the company that Teamsters will fight to maintain standards in the grocery industry as we head into contract negotiations this month. The company had tried to capitalize on the perceived divisions, but had underestimated us. "I don't think they expected the solidarity that our group showed," McKinney said.
Members of the SuperValu union bargaining committee.
Teamsters in the grocery warehouse industry continue to win strong contracts.
This Saturday, our members who work at SuperValu voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new one-year agreement. The contract proposal was fully recommended by our union bargaining committee.
The new contract contains wage and pension increases, health and welfare protections, and for the first time Local 117 members employed at the company will have coverage for domestic partners under their health plan.
The economic benefits and other improvements helped offset the short term of the agreement. “Our company’s going through transition,” said Greg Wiest, a 28-year Teamster and member of the bargaining committee. “There’s a lot of uncertainty right now. But this was a good deal given that it was a one-year deal.”Read more