UNFI Affirms Commitment to Continuing to Reach Highly-Competitive Labor Agreements With Valued Associates in the State of Washington and Across the Country

October 28, 2019

Successful Labor Relations Track Record Includes Reaching 14 Consensual Agreements With Unions Across 6 States Since the SUPERVALU Acquisition in October 2018

Company is Appealing Recent Arbitration Decision That Would Establish a Wage and Benefit Structure in Centralia, Washington That Applies to Certain Associates, But Not Others With the Same Positions and Roles

As Appeals Process Unfolds, UNFI Remains Willing to Provide Associates in Tacoma, Washington With Strong Relocation Benefits to Work at Our Centralia Facility and Quality Severance Compensation if They Do Not

United Natural Foods, Inc. (NYSE: UNFI) (“UNFI” or the “Company”), North America's premier food wholesaler delivering the widest variety of products to a diverse and expansive customer base across the country, today issued the below statement in connection with its decision to proceed in the  Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington and file an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”). Both legal actions challenge a recent arbitration decision that contradicts requirements imposed by federal law by effectively requiring UNFI to unfairly impose a union contract at its non-union distribution center in Centralia, Washington.  

Jill Sutton, UNFI’s chief legal officer, general counsel and corporate secretary, commented:

“UNFI is fully committed to delivering stability and support to all of its associates in Tacoma as we close that facility. Through working with the local union, we have sought to provide strong relocation arrangements for associates in Tacoma that now desire to work in Centralia as well as quality severance packages for those who do not. This is the type of good faith labor relations approach that has helped UNFI reach 14 consensual labor agreements over the past year, including agreements with two other unions impacted by facility closures in the Pacific Northwest.   

While UNFI remains confident that there is a path to reaching a consensual agreement with our valued associates in Tacoma, we also believe that the arbitrator’s recent decision is unlawful and flawed because we cannot extend union contract terms – in blatant violation of federal requirements – at our non-union Centralia distribution center.  It completely contradicts regulatory and labor law principles to force UNFI to create a wage and benefit structure that would apply to one set of employees and not others with the same positions and responsibilities in Centralia. This is why today we have proceeded with filings in federal court and with the NLRB.

As the process progresses, it is important to highlight that UNFI is continuing to offer associates in Tacoma the stability of joining us in Centralia on the competitive terms currently in place at that distribution center. We are also still offering these individuals strong relocation packages and an ability to obtain the benefits of the arbitration ruling if it is upheld after appeals are concluded.”

Paul Green, UNFI’s chief supply chain officer, added:

“We firmly believe that the events of the past year have proven that UNFI remains very much pro-labor and pro-associate while adapting its business to today’s economic realities and customer expectations. The fact is that in order for UNFI to thrive and meet the needs of its various stakeholders, including maintaining strong wages and benefits for associates across the country, we must have labor agreements that allow us to be flexible and nimble in a rapidly changing food distribution environment. We owe it to our customers, shareholders, and associates to continue to pursue these types of high-quality agreements with local unions – agreements that position UNFI and all of its stakeholders for long-term success.”

About United Natural Foods
UNFI is North America's premier food wholesaler delivering the widest variety of products to customer locations throughout North America including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, ecommerce retailers, and food service customers. By providing this deeper 'full-store' selection and compelling brands for every aisle, UNFI is uniquely positioned to deliver great food, more choices, and fresh thinking to customers everywhere. Combined with SUPERVALU, UNFI is the largest publicly-traded grocery distributor in America. To learn more about how UNFI is Moving Food Forward, visit www.unfi.com.


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