Providence, RI—United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) announced that it has reached new long-term labor agreements with drivers at its Hudson Valley distribution center in Montgomery, NY (represented by Teamsters Local 445) and frontline workers at its California distribution centers in Commerce, Stockton and Santa Fe Springs (represented by Teamsters Locals 495, 630, 848 and 439). According to an UNFI press release, the contracts include compromises and language updates that "provide UNFI important operating flexibility to better serve its customers while providing its valued associates highly competitive wages, strong benefits, and industry-leading safety and risk management support amidst the COVID-19 pandemic."

The agreements come days after warehouse and delivery workers at UNFI voted to strike. According to a press release from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, workers demanded that UNFI "stop violating federal labor laws and comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines."

"During this time, nothing is more important to us than the safety of each one of our members, their families, and the general public," said Teamsters Warehouse Division Director and International Vice President Steve Vairma, in the Teamsters' press release. "If UNFI expects its frontline workers to perform hazardous jobs and keep our food supply chain running, the company must provide workers with a safe workplace and stop attacking their healthcare."

In announcing the agreement, Eric Dorne, UNFI 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.”

Jill Sutton, UNFI Chief Legal Officer and head of the labor relations team, added, “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.
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“These agreed-upon and fully-recommended contracts underscore the strong support UNFI is providing to its more than 21,000 associates. In addition to delivering market-competitive compensation, UNFI’s award-winning safety and risk management team is continuing to prioritize associates’ health and wellbeing. We’ve made the necessary investments at our 59 distribution centers to provide industry-leading pandemic safety support, including enhanced cleanings, hygiene supplies, temperature-checks, ample protective gear and regulation-compliant and socially-distant workplaces. These procedures and protocols have repeatedly received high marks from our union associates and their leaders. UNFI will continue to take these types of proactive steps and enhance our protocols accordingly as CDC guidance evolves. We’ve complied with all governmental guidance throughout the pandemic’s entire life cycle and will remain vigilant to keep our associates safe as we deliver on our promise of keeping the supply chain flowing.”