To our Customers, Consumers, Associates, Friends and Neighbors:
As you may be aware, over the past several months UNFI has been involved in contract discussions with Teamsters Local 117, which represents our warehouse and driver associates in Auburn, WA. We are committed to negotiating in good faith and to reaching an equitable agreement that is good for our workers, our company, and the customers and communities we serve. UNFI has always been a quiet, modest Company focused on doing what is right for our associates, our customers and our communities. But in the face of a Teamster campaign that is playing fast and loose with the truth and spreading rumors and misinformation about our Company and the negotiation process, we feel obligated to set the record straight.
So here are the facts:
- In early December, one of the busiest times of the year for our Company, rather than remain at the negotiating table, Teamster officials orchestrated a strike. This came despite Union assurances to the contrary and knowing full well the impact it would have on our associates, our Company, and this community. Because of the Union leadership’s self-serving move, we were forced to find replacement workers to meet customer demand, keep the facility up and running, and ensure that we were able to meet our obligations to our customers and the rest of UNFI’s 7,000 associates across the country. The Union knew full well that its decision to strike when it did would leave UNFI no choice but to hire replacement workers
- Teamster officials are not bargaining in good faith, or in the best interests of their members. Over the past several weeks, UNFI has offered proposals with significant increases and enhancements to wages, benefits and work rules – all of which were rejected by the union. We have offered:
- A 17% increase in worker wages over five years
- Caps on employee medical costs, to help protect workers from rising healthcare expenses
- Retroactive pay, dating back to March 1st of 2012
- In the latest round of negotiations, UNFI offered, and the Union agreed to, a proposal that would bring the striking workers back to their original positions – the vast majority returning to work immediately and all striking workers returning to work within three months. Unfortunately, the Union ultimately rejected the larger proposal
- UNFI has always played by the rules, which cannot be said of the Teamsters. A Washington state Judge recently enjoined Local 117 from further property damage and threatening conduct
By working together with our associates, UNFI has grown to be the leading independent national distributor of natural, organic and specialty foods, which has been repeatedly recognized as one of Fortune Magazine’s Most Admired Companies. We are proud of the reputation we have built in our industry, but we’re also proud of the work we do every day to better the communities we are a part of:
- We donate over $1 million per year to a wide variety of non-profit organizations, in addition to over $6 million more in food donations through Feeding America and other agencies
- In Seattle, we support organizations that work to fight hunger or enrich our environment, such as Operation Sack Lunch, Emergency Food Network, the Children’s Home Society, and PCC Farmland Trust
- UNFI associates volunteer on farms, and participate in eco-system restoration projects by planting trees and tending community gardens, or cleaning up watersheds
- We are focused on protecting the environment and promoting sustainability through investments in solar energy. We currently operate 3 large-scale solar panel arrays, with another array scheduled to go live this February
- United Natural Foods, Inc. was ranked by Fortune in 2006 – 2010 and 2012 as one of its "Most Admired Companies," winner of the Supermarket News 2008 Sustainability Excellence Award, recognized by the Nutrition Business Journal for its 2009 Environment and Sustainability Award and chosen by Food Logistics Magazine as one of its 2012 Top 20 Green Providers
A foundation of UNFI’s success has been our dedication to treating all our 7,000 associates with fairness and respect as well as to ensuring that our customers receive top-notch service and responsiveness.
That is why we are deeply concerned about the current situation in Auburn and how these events have unfolded. We are also troubled by the actions of the Teamsters leaders and their emphasis on threats, spinning the facts and bashing UNFI in public, rather than on doing what is best for their members and our associates.
We want to find a resolution quickly and are hopeful that the union will return to negotiations. Our next bargaining session is scheduled for January 29, 2013. We plan to do our talking at the bargaining table so that we can all get back to work.
Steven L. Spinner
President & CEO