Trouble at United Natural Foods Inc. (NYSE: UNFI)
A labor dispute with one of the nation’s largest grocery distributors is shaping to be one of the biggest in recent memory. Corporate Transparency has confirmed through multiple sources that United Natural Foods Inc (UNFI) is facing labor action in multiple states that could affect both investors and consumers at large grocery chains like Cub Foods, Whole Foods Market, Coborn’s and SuperValu.
The campaign against UNFI appears to be powered by rank and file members of the Teamsters Union pushing for action on social media. Public social media posts with the hashtag “#FUnfi” include UNFI workers in at least Washington, Minnesota, California, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, Indiana and Oregon. If the Union is indeed planning nationwide work stoppages, it is unclear if UNFI could find enough replacement workers to keep grocery store shelves stocked and keep the dispute from affecting its major customers.
The dispute seems to center around UNFI’s purchase of grocery distributor SuperValu last year. My sources tell me that UNFI has began either subcontracting or moving significant portions of work in some areas, affecting the livelihoods of longtime employees and potentially lowering food safety standards for many of the food products we take for granted every day. According to Wall Street investment analysts, UNFI stock value has dropped over 77% in the past year, and in an increasingly competitive market it is unclear how power struggles with their workforce will benefit their investors or their customers.
I called a senior level UNFI official to get a comment from the company regarding the impending actions. He abruptly hung up when I mentioned the workers grievances and the possibility of work stoppages. I had hoped to get answers about how the contracting out of former good paying union jobs to lower paid workers fit into their “Mission to transform the world of food,” and in particular their commitment to “do the right thing: put safety and integrity at the forefront of everything we do.”
Many questions remain unanswered: Do UNFI’s clients and customers know about the employee actions? Does UNFI have a plan to deal with work stoppages? How will UNFI guarantee that citizens around the country have access to affordable and healthy food in the event of a national work stoppages?
Reporting for CoporateTransparency.org