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Teamsters Local 117 has resumed its strike of United Natural Foods, Inc.’s (UNFI) Auburn, Wash., distribution center in response to the company’s announcement that it planned to permanently replace 72 warehouse workers who were prepared to return to work after a three-day strike. As of Dec. 12, UNFI had accepted the Union’s good-faith unconditional offer to return, but subsequently rescinded that agreement.
“UNFI misrepresented its position regarding its workers’ good-faith offer to return to work,” said Tracey A. Thompson, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 117. “The company’s action to replace its employees is retaliatory, unlawful and frankly despicable.”
When UNFI’s drivers and warehouse workers returned to work today at the facility in Auburn – following the strike and subsequent agreement -- they were told by security officers that “they were not on the list.” The Union later learned through UNFI’s attorney of the company’s intent to permanently replace 72 of its employees.
“UNFI is refusing to uphold its side of the agreement," said Robert Jurey, a 13-year warehouse worker with UNFI. “We committed to take down the picket lines and UNFI pledged to accept our offer to return to work. Now they are telling us that 72 workers are out of a job right before the holidays. It’s a disgrace.”
"The Union was well aware that a strike at the busiest time of the year would leave UNFI no choice but to hire replacement associates so we could continue to serve our customers," said Sean Griffin, UNFI group president. "Yet the Union chose to put its own interests over the interests of its membership and ordered a strike. The Union has continued to mischaracterize UNFI by falsely blaming the company for the consequences of their decision."
Local 117 has filed new unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB today over the permanent replacement issue. The NLRB is currently investigating UNFI for 45 additional violations of federal labor law.