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United Natural Foods, Inc. Enters Labor Mediation with Workers’ Union in Washington

Thursday, January, 10, 2013

In December of 2012, United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) announced that it would permanently replace 72 warehouse workers, who were returning to work after a three-day strike.  According to the workers and Teamsters Local 117, their labor union, UNFI had first accepted the workers’ good-faith unconditional offer to return to work, and then suddenly failed to uphold that commitment. 

According to Tracey A. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117, “UNFI misrepresented its position regarding its workers’ good-faith offer to return to work.  The company’s action to replace its employees is retaliatory, unlawful and frankly despicable.”

According to Federal law, a company may not permanently replace striking workers if the strike is due to unfair labor practice.  However, when UNFI employees, who had participated in a strike against UNFI for unfair labor practices, arrived at work following the three-day strike, they were informed by UNFI security officers that “they were not on the list.”  UNFI’s attorney later revealed to the Teamster’s Union that UNFI planned to permanently replace 72 of the employees who had participated in the strike. 

“UNFI is refusing to uphold its side of the agreement.  We committed to take down the picket lines and UNFI pledged to accept our offer to return to work. Now they are telling us that 72 workers are out of a job right before the holidays. It’s a disgrace,” said Robert Jurey, a 13-year warehouse worker with UNFI.

Following the fiasco, Teamsters Local 117 filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB.  UNFI is also being investigated for an additional 45 violations of federal labor law that have been filed against the company on separate occasions.  Although it has proclaimed the unfair labor charges to be “baseless,” UNFI agreed to enter into mediation talks with the workers and the Teamsters Local 117 Union that represents them