By The Chronicle
According to a news release distributed by the Teamsters Local Union 117 Tuesday, a labor dispute brought by union workers for United Natural Foods, Inc. was resolved during arbitration in favor of the 300 Teamsters who brought the claim.
“I’m prouder to be a Teamster now than I’ve ever been in 30- years,” said Greg Wiest, a shop steward and forklift driver at the facility, in the press release. “This is not only big for us, but it’s big for the entire labor movement. The talk in the warehouse since the decision is that a lot of us will be going down to Centralia. We’re pretty excited — morale’s way up today. Now we know that we have a job.”
UNFI plans to appeal the decision, The News Tribune reported.
According to the Teamsters, the decision will allow the 300 union workers at UNFI’s Tacoma warehouse to transfer to the new Centralia facility under the terms of their current contract. The arbitrator awarded transfer rights and back pay to workers facing layoffs which were scheduled to begin Saturday.
UNFI began building a $100 million, 1.2 million square foot grocery distribution center at the Port of Centralia early this year, and planned to be fully operational by the end of this year.
Developer Tom O’Keefe said earlier this year he expected the facility to bring 350 jobs to the area. UNFI announced in February it would shut down its Tacoma warehouse, formerly owned by Supervalu, and move to Centralia. The Teamsters said this spring that UNFI would not honor their union’s contracts at the new facility. The union filed a grievance.
“This is an extraordinary victory not just for Teamsters at UNFI but for working people across this country,” said John Scearcy, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters 117. “The Arbitrator upheld strong language in our contract that protects the rights of our members. Now hundreds of working people will have the opportunity to retain good, family-wage jobs with the same health and welfare protections and retirement security that our Tacoma contract provides. We hope UNFI will do the right thing and move swiftly to honor the arbitrator’s decision.”
The Chronicle will update this story.