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Trouble at United Natural Foods Inc. (NYSE: UNFI)

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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?

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David Gilbert-Pederson
Reporting for CoporateTransparency.org

  1. MichaelMichael08-09-2019

    UNFI reminds me every day how fortunate I am to have worked for Supervalu for over 30 years. You can’t picture a more unscrupulous, greedy, anti-labor, anti-working class company. Supervalu was recently purchased by UNITED NATURAL FOODS INC. (UNFI) Will relocate to Centralia by the end of 2019 closing the doors on its Tacoma facility that has been here for over 125 years. UNFI also decided current labor contracts are no longer valid even though there is incredibly specific language in those contracts that addresses the transfer of work to a different facility. I’m ashamed to say I work there (for the time being) but I am proud as hell of my Teamster Brothers and Sister’s patience and camaraderie given the unreal tactics UNFI has implemented including SCAB LABOR! Companies like UNFI will decimate middle-class wages, lower property values and increase the tax burden on local families.

    I will NEVER shop a UNFI supplied store. I encourage you to make the same decision.

  2. Eugene E. Bates lllEugene E. Bates lll08-10-2019

    I was working there over 16 hours a day at times operating heavy equipment.
    I was sleeping in the parking lot and lost my marriage.
    Oh and double time is something these companies don’t honor anymore.
    Un American!
    They fired me under false acuations of insubordination over the long hours.

  3. MickeyMickey08-10-2019

    I worked for UNFI for 15 years, as a general labour, lead worker, warehouse, and Transportation Supervisor. And it is ONLY now that my confidentiality agreement has expired that I can say that they HAVE NO REGARD OR RESPECT for their employees. They R seen as work equipment, to be used till unrepairable and then replaced. I can GUARANTEE you that in right to work states Scab employees are already being looked in to. I know this because I participated in such training when the transportation team in Washington went on strike about 7 years ago. As their say say ‘ Greedy by Nature.”

  4. MattMatt08-23-2019

    I worked 26 years at UNFI and there was a time from the mid-90’s through early 2000’s where UNFI leadership coexisted with the Teamsters at their 1 organized facility. I worked at the Auburn, WA facility during the strike in 2012-13 and that experience was for me a wake up call that it was time to leave UNFI. Realizing where the company was headed I also divested myself of all UNFI stock which in retrospect was obviously a wise choice. Don’t get me wrong, I have no love for the Teamsters and saw how many of their adversarial policies and practices prevented that facility from achieving the level of performance it could have. But I will say, UNFI and the Teamsters deserve each other and both will have an equal hand in steering this ship towards its final iceberg.

  5. John DoeJohn Doe08-26-2019

    I was a non-union corporate employee. The CIO and CEO would stomp around the MN HQ and complain about working as a team, yet the CIO couldn’t name 3 people sitting in front of him in the crowd. This should have been easy as the Supervalu HQ was gutted from the inside out. Supervalu was posed to deliver amazing services to customers for a very distinguishable market advantage, but senior leadership from UNFI didn’t understand how to run a business, rather they understand how to drive the business into the ground. They all came from other companies they’ve driven into the ground like PFG and A&P. If you’re looking for leadership with a clue, don’t look at UNFI. The board of directors should be replacing every executive left in position of power. Where is Blackwells now? Where is the hedge fund pushing to destroy a good thing now? The deal which merged this company was corrupt and destroyed families nationwide. Blackwells should be in jail, yet they’re off to the next activist investor gig. Where did Mark Gross go when he cashed out his SVU stock? Did he act correctly by selling to UNFI? Clearly UNFI can’t negotiate a contract well if they bought such a failing company as Supervalu (apparently), or they’re incompetent and were instrumental in driving it into the ground. Which is it? You decide. UNFI is officially on suicide watch. Who’s to gain the most? BK time. Designed, modeled, predicted. Big picture says BK is in order to squeeze the unions and contracts which are keeping them competitive, and they’re going to blame legacy Supervalu because it’s easy for leadership to point fingers rather than resign.

  6. Mike BraunwarthMike Braunwarth10-15-2019

    I would say SuperValu is just as bad. SuperValu CEO made a decision to buy Albertsons in 2012 dropping SV’s stock from 40+ dollars a share down to 3 bucks a share. Then 10 months later the CEO bails with a golden parachute worth millions. After this bullshit happened SuperValu never really recovered. Thanks greedy CEO. The end result seems to be selling the company to another one that’s about the same.

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