July 20, 2017 11:45 AM, EDT

Truck Drivers in New York Ratify Contract With United Natural Foods

Teamsters Local 445 Teamsters Local 445

Truck drivers in Montgomery, N.Y., voted to ratify a collective bargaining agreement with private carrier United Natural Foods Inc., the first contract since they joined the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in 2016.

The deal guarantees overtime pay after 40 hours per week, annual salary bumps and protections against unfair discipline, according to the Teamsters Local 445.

“The overtime pay was the big thing for us,” said John Cruz, a three-year UNFI driver. “We work long hours and deserve to be paid extra for the time we miss with our families. We hope UNFI institutes overtime pay for all drivers, but without a contract, management can still play games. UNFI drivers and warehouse workers are realizing the best way to protect themselves is to organize with the Teamsters.”

When UNFI built a distribution center in Montgomery, it received $17.6 million in local and state tax subsidies in exchange for a promise to create jobs.

In June, UNFI warehouse workers and drivers in the Seattle area ratified a new contract that included a pension for the first time. In May, warehouse workers in Southern California voted to be represented by Teamsters Local 166. UNFI Teamsters in Iowa (Local 238) and New Jersey (Local 810) are negotiating new contracts this year as well.

“A union contract with Teamsters representation is the only way to protect yourself if you’re a UNFI employee, especially with the consolidation we’re seeing in the industry at the moment,” said Steve Vairma, director of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Warehouse Division, referring to the pending Amazon Inc. deal to purchase Whole Foods Market Inc. “We’re seeing UNFI employees all over the country realize the value of being union, and that’s why you’re seeing this wave of victories.”

UNFI ranks No. 43 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America with 812 tractors and 1,044 trailers.