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."
Three UNFI Shop Stewards, Hamilton Lancaster, Dottie Dunthorn and Catalino Brown, helped achieve this historic contract.
On Saturday, Teamsters who work at UNFI voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new contract. It includes a key provision never before present in their collective bargaining agreement – a pension.
Hamilton Lancaster, a Shop Steward at UNFI who fought for this historic contract, mentions that they “are the first UNFI facility in the country to get a pension. It is something that the company has sworn up and down they will never ever give us.”
"I’ve been there for 12 years and the company said — you’ll never get a pension."
Five years ago, workers at UNFI stood together courageously in a nine-week strike to demand better wages and benefits. This time around, Teamsters presented a unified front to fight for financial security after their retirement.
Pension, however, is not the only improvement this contract achieves. It also includes caps on mandatory overtime that will improve quality of life for members. “It’s huge because we won’t be as burnt out,” says Catalino Brown. “We’ll get our days off and will be well-rested to come in and be motivated to work.”
Voting took place in two separate locations, at the Teamsters Hall in Tukwila and in Spokane. Both groups welcomed the new contract. As Lancaster sums it up, “We got some bargaining unit work protections in there, better vacation language, and everybody got a raise and a retro out of it. I think that made it a pretty good deal for a lot of people.”
Local 117 Vice President Marcus Williams, the lead negotiator for the union, praised the work of the bargaining committee.
"They did a fantastic job throughout the negotiations," he said. "The entire membership at UNFI stood strong for retirement security and other improvements. It shows what we are able to achieve when we stand together."
This victory was one of the two contracts ratified this weekend. Republic Services drivers won a long standing fight for a contract granting them parity in wages and working conditions with the garbage drivers. John Scearcy, Teamsters Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer, highlights the importance of these wins.
"Our union's trend of achieving historic contracts shows that our new approach of building contract campaigns is strong. Our focus on engaging and activating the true power-base of our union, the members, is working."
Caps on mandatory overtime for better work - life balance.
James Williams knew he was getting shortchanged. His contract had clear language stating that employees were entitled to overtime pay when they worked in excess of 40 hours during the week.
His company, United Natural Foods, Inc., generally followed that rule. But James detected a glaring exception. “I pay close attention to my paycheck,” he said. “I noticed that the hours worked on a holiday weren't being counted toward my 40 hours for the week.”
That meant that whenever James worked on a holiday and then went on to work more than 40 hours in the week that followed, the company was miscalculating his overtime. James and his-co-workers were getting ripped off.
For James, a driver of 15 and a half years, the error was a big deal. He worked a lot of holidays and tons of overtime. UNFI had been shorting him hundreds of dollars, several times a year.Read more