Teamsters Local 414 drivers, warehouse and maintenance workers went on strike Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Fort Wayne United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) distribution center to protest the company’s violations of federal laws that protect workers’ rights.
The strike by 158 Teamster members who supply food and related products to grocery stores will affect customers in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia and Kentucky. Local 414’s collective bargaining agreement with UNFI expired 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, Teamsters Local 414 Secretary-Treasurer. “The Teamsters Union does not condone abusive behavior by employers. Local 414 members will fight to ensure they are treated fairly and with respect.”
UNFI is the largest wholesale distributor to natural and organic retailers in the U.S. and Canada. After its Oct. 2018 acquisition of SUPERVALU, it became the second-largest grocery wholesaler in America.
UNFI’s acquisition of SUPERVALU brought 5,000 Teamsters at scores of distribution centers across the country under a single company. SUPERVALU has long been a highly unionized company.
As he walked the line this morning, UNFI warehouse worker Kevin Fick said, “We work hard to help UNFI earn huge revenues, yet the company has refused to satisfy its legal obligation to bargain with us through our union. Today we are standing up for our right to have respect and a voice on the job. Treating workers this way is unconscionable and illegal.”
Whole Foods/Amazon is now UNFI’s largest customer, making up 21 percent of UNFI’s total revenues in 2019. UNFI has been Amazon/Whole Foods’ primary distributor for 20 years. Fresh Market, Cub Foods and Festival Foods are major regional customers for UNFI in the Midwest.