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STRIKE OVER! Workers at UNFI Vote to Ratify 5-Year Contract Agreement

Submitted by Food Democracy Now on February 8, 2013 - 8:54am

In an email from the Teamsters Local 117 in Seattle, Washington, Food Democracy Now! was excited to learn that the Teamsters' 9-week strike against United Foods, Inc. (UNFI) officially ended this week. In the email below, the Teamsters' announced that negotiations ended with the successful signing of a 5-year contract that met their demands for the "reinstatement of all workers" including 72 workers who had been wrongfully terminated and permanently replaced by scabs along with "health and welfare protections" for the workers and "meaningful wage increases."

The agreement came exactly one week after Food Democracy Now! joined with the Organic Consumers Association in announcing their support for the Teamsters. In a meeting last week, Food Democracy Now! sat down with Teamster Local 117 and pledged our full support for the striking workers. 

"I'm encouraged in seeing this difficult strike come to an end and think it's great that Teamster workers and UNFI reached an amicable and mutually beneficial agreement," said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots movement of more than 350,000 farmers and citizens dedicated to creating a more sustainable planet.

"All workers should have basic protections under the law and no company should be able to violate those rights at will simply for their bottom line. It's important that the organic industry respect the rights of American's workers as much as they claim to in foreign fair trade agreements. Our communities and our economies are stronger when workers are treated with respect and honored with fair contracts," said Murphy.

To learn more about the strike read "Domestic Fair Trade: A Plea to UNFI and Whole Foods for Justice", by Ronnie Cummings of Organic Consumers Associations and Dave Murphy of Food Democracy Now! published on Common Dreams.

And the email from Teamsters Local 117 announcing a successful end to the strike:

On Thursday, February 7, warehouse workers and drivers, represented by Teamsters Local 117, overwhelmingly voted to ratify a fully-recommended 5-year contract agreement with United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI).

The contract vote, which was held after a 3:30 p.m. meeting at the Teamsters building in Tukwila, officially ends the nine-week strike that started on December 10 at the company’s distribution center in Auburn, WA. Picket lines at the facility were taken down at approximately 5:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Warehouse workers and drivers will report to work early next week.

The agreement provides for the reinstatement of all workers, including the 72 who had been permanently replaced, health and welfare protections for workers, and meaningful wage increases.

“Workers at UNFI stood together courageously in difficult conditions to fight for dignity and respect,” said Tracey A. Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “With the help of our community partners and a strong bargaining committee, workers were able to achieve a fair and just contract.”

Local 117 members say they are ready to return to work. “Our customers are our number one priority,” said Robert Jurey, a warehouse worker and Shop Steward who has worked at UNFI’s Auburn facility for 13 years. “We look forward to getting back into the warehouse and back in our trucks so that we can continue to provide the highest-quality service to our customers.”

“Local 117 wishes to thank our many community partners for their unwavering support throughout this contract dispute,” Thompson said.

“We are also deeply grateful to all of the individuals, unions, co-ops, small grocers, and other community organizations that took actions in solidarity with the striking workers and to those who donated to the hardship fund set up to provide workers with financial relief. Your generosity has made a tremendous difference in the lives of the 160 workers and their families who have been impacted by the strike.”

Teamsters Local 117


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