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.
UNFI can't get rid of the Teamsters. As many times as the anti-union company has tried, we’re still here to protect our members.
Since 2012, UNFI lost a strike and two major arbitrations to our union. UNFI keeps striking out.
This week, UNFI suffered a huge defeat in arbitration. An Arbitrator rightly held UNFI was obligated to abide by the contract language it negotiated.
Rather than honor our contract and the Arbitrator’s final and binding decision however, UNFI announced that they would appeal to federal court and attempt to set aside the well-reasoned Arbitration Award.
Our contract states:
But UNFI has demonstrated over and over that it does not honor its commitments in negotiations.
With many employers, we wouldn’t have even arbitrated this case. Our contract with UNFI gives members the right to transfer and retain their wages and benefits in the event that the employer moves operations within the jurisdiction of our Joint Council. It states:
Seems pretty clear. So when UNFI announced they would be shutting down their Tacoma warehouse and moving to a new facility in Centralia, the reasonable assumption was that the company would uphold its end of the bargain, as our Union and members have for decades.
Instead, UNFI ignored the contract and said the terms and conditions of the Tacoma agreement would not apply to our members who transferred to Centralia, and even denied our members the opportunity to transfer to Centralia, thus creating uncertainty for over 300 union members and their families. Thanks to the excellent work of our legal team, we were able to fight the company in arbitration and win.
This is not the first time our union has won an important victory against UNFI.
In July, UNFI employees in Tacoma walked out of the facility after the company was delinquent on health care and retirement payments that the company had agreed to in negotiations. Teamsters did not return to work until the union confirmed that UNFI had made the payment.
In 2016, the company had to cough up 50k for its failure to appropriately compensate employees who had worked in excess of 40 hours a week.
These victories can be attributed to a unified membership, strong contracts, and strong leadership. Under the direction of John Scearcy and Tracey Thompson before him, Local 117 has fought the anti-worker practices of UNFI, and we have have won.
This time will be no different. We will take on UNFI and we will win.
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."
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