Organic food grocery workers strike

Organic food grocery workers strike

Credit: KING

Teamsters Local Union 117 workers picket in front of United Natural Foods, Inc. in Auburn, Dec. 11, 2012.

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by JAKE WHITTENBERG / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on December 11, 2012 at 8:41 AM

You may see a shortage of organic food in Western Washington now than 165 grocery workers and truck drivers have gone on strike.

The employees with Teamsters Local Union 117 work for United Natural Foods, Inc. in Auburn. Members say they have been treated unfairly during labor negotiations with the company and their pay is 25 percent less than other companies their size.

About a dozen workers were carrying picket signs outside a warehouse in Auburn Tuesday. They repeatedly blocked trucks from entering and exiting the facility until an Auburn Police officer would ask them to move.

UNFI has not commented on the strike.

The Rhode Island-based company distributes organic food to retailers like Whole Foods, Safeway and Puget Consumers Co-op. Workers say the company appears to have hired replacement workers during the strike, so it’s unclear which store shelves will go bare during the strike.

For workers like Robert Sheley, who don’t receive a paycheck during the strike, being on the picket line is personal.

“I have a one income home right now,” he said. “We work hard to make this company profitable and this is what they show us in return and how grateful they are.”

There are no plans for either side to return to the bargaining table, although Local 117 leaders say they’ve extended an offer to negotiate.

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