HOPKINS, Minn. — Seven hundred members of Teamsters Local 120 walked out here Dec. 17 at United Natural Foods Inc., the largest organic grocery distributor in North America. The workers were supporting Teamsters Local 414 members who had set up a picket line outside the Hopkins warehouse after they went on strike Dec. 12 at the UNFI warehouse in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
The company refused to negotiate in good faith and the bosses were demanding concessions that would gut the union contract, picketing Local 414 members said. They have been working without a contract since Sept. 14.
Five thousand Teamsters work at dozens of UNFI distribution centers across the country. Whole Foods/Amazon is the company’s largest customer.
Local 414 had extended its picket line to plants here and in Green Bay, Wisconsin, to broaden fellow workers’ knowledge about the fight and win solidarity.
Nearly every worker walked off the job at the Hopkins warehouse. Members of the Machinists and the Plumbers and Pipefitters unions also honored the picket lines.
When the company tried to get lower-paid nonunion contract workers to load the trucks, they walked out too.
By the next day, there were dozens of trucks with inbound freight parked outside the warehouse. No work was going on inside. UNFI bosses then announced Dec. 19 they would return to negotiations with Local 414 in Ft. Wayne. The extended picket lines were taken down and workers returned to work at all three facilities.
Mark Severs, a Militant worker-correspondent and member of Minneapolis-area Teamsters Local 638, who drives for a company that makes deliveries to the warehouse, joined the picketers. “Once drivers where I work learned the pickets were up, we agreed we were not going to cross the picket line,” he said.