Warehouse associates at Smart & Final and United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) distribution centers have voted to join the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Teamsters said Monday that more than 300 warehouse employees from the Smart & Final facility in Commerce, California, are now represented by Teamsters Local 630, based in Los Angeles.
“I’m looking forward to working with Local 630 to negotiate a fair contract that’s on par with the other food distribution centers in our industry such as Vons, Albertsons and Ralphs, just to mention a few,” Joe Lagano, a 32-year warehouse worker at the Smart & Final distribution center, said in a statement.
The Smart & Final warehouse staff are seeking more-consistent standards, better health care coverage, a path to retirement and stronger safety measures, among other workplace improvements, Teamsters reported.
“Workers at the Smart & Final distribution center made history by overwhelmingly voting to join Teamsters Local 630,” commented Lou Villalvazo, secretary-treasurer for Teamster Local 630. “Workers voted to join Local 630 because they see the strong representation, better wages, benefits and strong protections that come with a Teamster contract."
Commerce-based Smart & Final currently operates 253 Smart & Final Extra! and Smart & Final warehouse-style grocery stores in California, Nevada and Arizona. The chain was acquired by Bodega Latina Corp. (now Chedraui USA), a subsidiary of Mexican retailer Grupo Comercial Chedraui, in a $620 million deal in 2021.
Earlier this month, 220 warehouse associates working in UNFI’s Rocklin, California, distribution center voted to join Teamsters Local 150, based in Sacramento. Plans call for proposal meetings and the bargaining process for the workers’ first contract to begin once the Feb. 2 election is certified, Teamsters said.
“Now that we are Teamsters, we look forward to winning better pay, better health care and better retirement,” stated Ron Bergman, a 27-year reach-lift driver at the UNFI Rocklin facility.
Warehouse workers at the Rocklin distribution center started organizing after drivers at the UNFI facility gained representation with Teamsters Local 150 last April.
“Not long after drivers won their vote, warehouse workers reached out ready to launch a campaign of their own,” according to Dale Wentz, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 150. “We’re very happy for these workers and applaud everyone at Local 150 who helped on the campaign. This victory is going to change lives.”
North America’s largest publicly traded grocery distributor, Providence, Rhode Island-based UNFI operates 56 distribution centers and supplies more than 30,000 retailers in the United States and Canada, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce retailers and foodservice providers.
Both Smart & Final and UNFI couldn’t immediately be reached by Winsight Grocery Business for comment.