US: United Natural Foods, Teamsters to hold dispute talks

By Chris Mercer | 3 January 2013

United Natural Foods and the Teamsters trade union will hold fresh talks as customers voice disquiet over the ongoing worker strike in Washington state.

United Natural Foods (UNFI), a key supplier to Whole Foods Market and which specialises in organic and natural foods, is due to meet Teamsters representatives in-front of a federal mediator on 8 January.

Workers at the UNFI site in Auburn remain on strike over alleged abuse of labour rules, following the failure of previous talks on 20 December. Most recently, Teamsters has also accused UNFI of illegally employing permanent replacements for 72 striking workers.

As the dispute continues, there is growing concern among some of UNFI's regional customers.

"We continue to accept deliveries from UNFI but are exploring other long-term options," said PCC Natural Markets. It has written to UNFI to urge the firm to engage with Teamsters and bargain fairly.

"Many food co-ops have taken action to support the striking workers," Teamsters' local spokesperson, Paul Zilly, told just-food. "Both the Olympia Food Co-op and the Central Co-op in Seattle have refused UNFI deliveries."

A UNFI spokesperson told just-food: "UNFI looks forward to continuing negotiations and is hopeful we can get to an agreement that is in the best interests of our customers, our associates and our business. In the meantime, UNFI’s focus remains on serving its customers."

Sectors: Fresh produce, Natural & organic

Companies: UNFI, Whole Foods Market

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