Drivers at America’s largest organic and natural food supplier, United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI), have voted to join Local 445.
The 100 drivers distribute food from the company’s Montgomery, N.Y. facility to Whole Foods and other organic, natural and specialty food stores in the New York metropolitan area. They voted to form a union at UNFI in order to ensure fair pay, equitable treatment on the job, and the ability to provide a good life for themselves and their families.
“These workers came to the Teamsters to win a strong union contract, like those enjoyed by other Teamster UNFI drivers around the country,” said Local 445 Secretary-Treasurer Barry Russell. “The Montgomery drivers withstood pressure by UNFI management—which of course wanted the drivers to remain powerless with no voice on the job—and proudly voted to become Teamsters. We plan to keep that energy alive as we help UNFI drivers get their first negotiated contract.”
Local 445 represents workers in the Hudson Valley counties of Orange, Sullivan, Ulster, Dutchess, Rockland, Putnam and Westchester. The UNFI workers join a diverse membership that includes construction workers, warehouse workers, school bus drivers, freight drivers, nurses and municipal workers.
“We are so proud to be Teamsters,” said Miguel Rodriguez, a UNFI driver. “We’ve seen what UNFI workers have won around the country by organizing with the Teamsters. We were inspired to stay strong and fight for our union and a voice on the job.”
This vote was just the latest victory for UNFI workers. In Moreno Valley, Calif., drivers organized their union with the Teamsters, and earlier this year they achieved a strong first contract, thanks to worker solidarity and the support of customers and food justice activists.
“We are happy to welcome our newest brothers and sisters in Montgomery,” said Steve Vairma, Warehouse Division Director. “UNFI is now the sixth-largest grocery wholesaler in the United States and the largest in the natural and organic sector. As the company has grown from its days supplying coops to become Whole Foods’ strategic distribution partner, workers have increasingly sought union representation there. The Teamsters look forward to continuing to protect workers in this industry.”
The Teamsters Union represents workers at UNFI distribution centers in Dayville, Conn.; Edison, N.J.; Iowa City, Iowa; Auburn (Seattle), Wash.; Leicester, Mass.; Moreno Valley, Calif.; and now Montgomery, N.Y.
UNFI’s Montgomery facility opened in 2014 in order to support Whole Foods Market’s expansion in New York. Since 2013, Local 445, the Valley Central American Federation of Teachers and the Hudson Valley Labor Federation—along with community groups, local families, taxpayers and Joint Council 16—have been working to hold UNFI accountable.
Next, Local 445 and UNFI drivers will enter contract negotiations with company management to reach a contract that protects drivers and provides a stable workforce so that UNFI can thrive in the Hudson Valley.