Labor Disputes Close Out 2019

About 1,000 workers went on strike at three United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) sites over a contract dispute, reported Minneapolis Star Tribune (Dec. 18).

The move by members of the Teamsters Local 120, if prolonged, will disrupt supplies to dozens of grocery stores in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota, including its largest grocery chain, Cub Foods, which is owned by UNFI. Other grocers in the area that rely on UNFI for most of their products include Lunds & Byerlys, Jerry’s, Kowalski’s and Coborn’s.

The strike by 158 Teamsters Local 414 members who supply food and other products to grocery stores began Dec. 12, affecting customers in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, W. Virginia and Kentucky. Local 414’s contract with UNFI expired Sept. 14. On Dec. 17, the strike was extended to a location in Green Bay, WI, and one in Hopkins, MN, which is one of the largest food distribution centers in the state.

“The issue isn’t about money, wages, retirement or health benefits,” said Tom Erickson, president of Teamsters Local 120. “Our members are honoring the picket line dispute from Local 414 [in Indiana]. It’s about the subcontracting of workers, redesigning the management rights clause and not honoring seniority.”

In a statement, UNFI noted the local workers are under a four-year contract that is still active and said it is implementing contingency plans to keep the distribution centers in Hopkins, Green Bay and Fort Wayne in operation.

However, the Teamsters said they will oppose executive compensation-relation proposals at UNFI’s annual shareholder meeting on Dec. 18.

Meanwhile, Sodexo resolved a foodservice labor dispute with Unite Here Local 11 at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, reported The Los Angeles Times (Dec. 17).

The foodservice workers reached a tentative agreement for a three-year contract with Sodexo for a “25% increase in compensation, a 50% drop in healthcare costs and increases in workers’ job security,” according to Unite Here Local 11, which represents about 150 campus employees. Many of the workers previously made less than $15 an hour.

Over in Chicago, city officials warned Flying Food Group to either pay employees the required wage of $14.10 per hour or lose its license to operate in the city, reported CBS Chicago (Dec. 17).

A union estimates that 271 Flying Food employees are owed $316,000 in back pay alone from the company, which makes airline meals. The company has until Jan. 10 to make changes.

In past letters, Flying Food Group claimed employees at its Schiller Park plant are exempt from the city’s wage requirement, despite doing business at O’Hare.