UNFI Workers in Indiana Strike

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UNFI Workers in Indiana Strike

By Abby Kleckler - 12/12/2019
UNFI Workers in Indiana Strike
The strike at UNFI's Fort Wayne, Ind., distribution center started Dec. 12

Updated: On Dec. 18, 2019, United Natural Food Inc. released the following statement about the ongoing strike:

"UNFI is anticipating the end of labor disruptions tonight and the resumption of normal business activity at distribution centers in Fort Wayne, Green Bay, and Hopkins. We hope to have our associates return to work in the very near-term. We’re also committed to return to the bargaining table in Fort Wayne and work in good faith with Teamsters Local 414 to reach a new labor agreement.

"We’re happy that our valued associates at all three facilities will be able to return to work and no longer experience the unnecessary instability they’ve experienced during the early holiday season. We appreciate our customers patience during this and also thank our facility managers, supervisors and colleagues from around the country who came together to help ensure our customers continued to receive their shipments from us during this disruption."

United Natural Food Inc.'s (UNFI) distribution center in Fort Wayne, Ind., is without 158 Teamster members as they protest what they're saying are company violations of federal laws that protect worker's rights. The company says the strike is illegal and "unnecessarily reckless."

The drivers, warehouse and maintenance workers service customers in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and Kentucky such as Whole Foods, Fresh Market and Cub Foods. The Teamsters Local 414 collective bargaining agreement with UNFI expired on Sept. 14.

"UNFI's attacks on its Fort Wayne workers are a show of disrespect for the men and women who are the backbone of its operations and have been for decades," said George Gerdes, secretary-treasurer of Fort Wayne-based Local 414. "The Teamsters Union does not condone abusive behavior by employers. Local 414 members will fight to ensure they are treated fairly and with respect."

In a statement to Progressive Grocer UNFI said: "It is regrettable that Teamsters Local 414 decided to initiate an illegal strike after refusing for months to sit down with us and despite our efforts to bargain in good faith to reach a new contract agreement in Fort Wayne. Local 414 took this action before UNFI was even able to deliver a proposed wages and benefits package. While this decision is unnecessarily reckless, UNFI is implementing robust contingency plans to maintain business continuity and support our customers and local communities. Meeting customer needs is our top priority, and UNFI is dedicated to taking necessary actions toward this end despite this unlawful union activity."

The strike comes one day after the distributor reported its first quarter of fiscal 2020 results.

No. 30 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States, UNFI delivers products to customer locations throughout North America, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, ecommerce retailers and foodservice customers. Combined with Minneapolis-based Supervalu, UNFI is the largest publicly traded grocery distributor in the United States.