(SAN PEDRO, Calif.) – Former workers at United Natural Foods, Inc. (NYSE: UNFI) testified yesterday in a hearing held by the Southern California Commission on a Sustainable Supply Chain. UNFI is a $6.8 billion Fortune 500 company that is America’s largest organic and natural foods wholesaler. It is Whole Foods Markets’ primary supplier.
The Sustainable Supply Chain Commission consists of representatives from economic, social and worker justice organizations, as well as academic experts from California universities and faith leaders.
Warehouse worker Sergio Acosta testified about being fired by UNFI in Moreno Valley, Calif., for organizing a labor union.
“UNFI set quotas so impossibly high in the warehouse that we have felt no choice but to unionize in an attempt to gain respect and to be heard. The response from UNFI has been one of intimidation, bullying and firing workers,” Acosta said.
“We formed the Commission on a Sustainable Supply Chain after hearing too many stories of bad actors that are threatening the economic health of Southern California,” said Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, who chaired the hearing. “The supply chain represents about one-third of all economic activity in Southern California. That’s why it’s vital for us to investigate the legal, environmental and human rights problems that a number of supply chain companies are causing.”
Anthony Matson was a driver at UNFI in Moreno Valley who was also fired for his union-supporting efforts.
“As UNFI drivers, we have raised concerns to try to protect our customers and the consumers—as well as keep the drivers safe—but UNFI reprimands anybody who speaks up,” Matson said.
The transportation and logistics industry plays a key role in the economy of Southern California, generating $249 billion in annual gross regional product. This “supply chain” industry supports jobs, businesses, and state and local tax revenue. Businesses in California rely heavily on the state’s ports and their related transportation networks to link national and global supply chains and bring products to the retail market.
“We have seen over and over that whenever UNFI workers try to form a union, UNFI management treats them brutally. UNFI fires them and intimidates them—management even leveled death threats against immigrant workers in Moreno Valley to scare them into dropping their organizing efforts,” said Mike Bergen, Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 166 in Bloomington, Calif.
“It’s so important that the Commission on a Sustainable Supply Chain bring to light UNFI’s abuses in Southern California. UNFI and its main partner, Whole Foods, market themselves on being sustainable. But destroying workers’ fundamental rights, illegally firing people and not paying a living wage is about as unsustainable as you can get,” said Randy Cammack, President of Teamsters Joint Council 42.
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.