United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) said it has reached new long-term labor agreements with union-represented drivers at its Hudson Valley distribution center in Montgomery, N.Y., and with front-line workers in California at its distribution centers in Commerce, Stockton and Santa Fe Springs.
UNFI associates in the Hudson Valley are represented by Teamsters Local 445 and those in Southern California are represented by Teamsters Locals 495, 630, 848 and 439.
The new deals include what UNFI said were “compromises and language updates” that provide operating flexibility to help the grocery wholesaler better serve customers while providing its associates highly competitive wages, strong benefits and industry-leading safety and risk management support amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It did not elaborate on the specifics of that language.
The New York deal comes days after the local union voted to authorize a strike that would potentially interrupt business of retail food clients during the upcoming holiday season. Those workers had raised the issue of COVID worker safety in recent announcements—allegations drawing a strong rebuke from the Providence, R.I.-based wholesaler.
“UNFI is focused on reaching equitable, modern labor agreements that balance the best interests of all of our stakeholders. We’re committed to obtaining fair terms that will help us remain adaptable, nimble and well-positioned to serve our customers in the highly-competitive and evolving food distribution environment. Our new contracts with Teamsters Locals in New York and California include important language updates designed to enhance UNFI’s long-term operational flexibility. We have now ratified approximately 15 labor agreements over the past 24 months and look forward to building on this momentum,” said Jill Sutton, UNFI’s chief legal officer and head of the labor relations team.
Eric Dorne, UNFI’s chief operating officer, said: “We’re pleased to fortify our distribution network and strengthen the nation’s food supply chain ahead of the busy holiday season and winter months. Our new long-term labor agreements in the Hudson Valley and Southern California put us on strong footing in the near-term and provide us with valuable flexibility to best serve our customers over the long term. These are the foundational elements of the exceptional customer service we intend to deliver across the Pacific and Northeast regions in the years ahead. I also want to take this opportunity to thank all of our associates, partners and customers throughout the country for their collaboration and confidence amidst the pandemic.”