Some of our member/owners have inquired about the United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) drivers’ strike at the Auburn distribution center.
The Food Co-op regrets the labor strike between the UNFI drivers and its management. This strike is confined to the Auburn distribution center alone because UNFI’s other distribution center drivers are non-union. As a cooperative, we strongly support the right to engage in collective bargaining, fair benefits and pay, and safe working conditions. In September, along with other co-ops in the area, I wrote to UNFI management and urged them to negotiate with their drivers in good faith to reach a settlement. Since the strike began, Grocery Manager Khy Griffin has, on several occasions, encouraged UNFI management to find a resolution also. The Food Co-op does not have a position on the strike where UNFI management vs. union is concerned, because we do not have all of the details.
This situation has highlighted a vulnerability of our supply chain, and we believe there are both short- and long-term solutions. UNFI supplies the majority of our grocery, dairy, and body care and wellness products, and the Co-op is under contract to use UNFI as its primary supplier. In the short term, to break that contract would result in a substantial increase in cost for those products which our member/owners would have to bear. We are exploring other long-term, secondary wholesale options to diversify our suppliers and support organizations that align with our cooperative values. We continue to voice our support of these values to the National Cooperative Grocers Association and UNFI.
While we are now accepting deliveries from non-union UNFI drivers, we believe the best solution is not to shop elsewhere since UNFI also supplies other grocery stores on the peninsula. Instead, we urge our member/owners to buy locally produced items as much as possible. Toward that end, we ask our owner/members to keep in mind that the Food Co-op has more local products than any other retailer in Jefferson County and has the only WSDA-certified organic produce department on the Olympic Peninsula.
Kenna Eaton, General Manager