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UNFI staff at northwest distribution center votes to strike

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

As United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) reports fourth-quarter income increased 46.4 %, drivers and warehouse workers employed at the company's Auburn, Wash., distribution center on Saturday rejected the company's "last, best and final" contract proposal and passed a final strike vote.

No strike date is set by the organization that represents 168 workers. The facility supplies large natural markets such as Whole Foods Market and PCC Natural Markets cooperative as well as independent natural foods stores. It also furnishes organic produce to the region's Safeway stores. UNFI officials are preparing to continue to serve its customers if a strike occurs.

Teamsters Local 117 representatives say the central issues in bargaining have been a stiff production standard and UNFI's refusal to bargain about a large compensation gap between the company and its local competitors. UNFI employee compensation runs 25 % below that paid by other major unionized grocery distributors in Washington's Puget Sound area, according to the union. The three-year union contract expired Feb. 28. Negotiations began in March 2012, with both parties agreeing to an extension with an end-of-August deadline. No further bargaining meetings nor a strike date have been set.

UNFI officials say the company presented "a substantive economic proposal" that is competitive within the industry as well as the region served by the Auburn facility. Meanwhile, they are preparing to run the distribution center with minimal disruption.

UNFI also announced today that it will consolidate four existing Denver-based distribution facilities into a new state-of-the-art 535,000-square-foot facility located at Gateway Park in Aurora, Colo. The project is expected to open next summer.




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