Organic food delivery drivers vote to return to job in good faith

AUBURN, Wash. -- Drivers who make deliveries for United Natural Foods voted to return to work while they continue negotiating a new contract.

The Teamsters union members voted 80 to 14 to stop picketing. It was not immediately clear whether the workers would return to their jobs on Thursday or on Friday.

The drivers had hit the picket lines Tuesday morning after rejecting the latest contract offer from the company.

The union members, who deliver organic produce to area grocery stores, said they don't make nearly as much money as their counterparts at other companies.

The company's contract with the drivers expired in May, but the drivers kept working while negotiations were under way. The union said members rejected United Natural Foods' "last, best offer" over the weekend.

"At the point that the company refused to honor their contract, they decided that it was time to go out on strike and see if they could get them to come back to the table and bargain a fair contract," said Brenda Weist with Teamsters Local 117.

The company, in a written statement, said its latest offer included a 10.8 percent wage increase over three years.

"UNFI has made numerous concessions during the months of negotiation and believes that the latest offer it presented to the union is fair, reasonable and competitive," the statement said.

The company had said it would be hiring replacement workers to continue making deliveries.

United Natural Foods supplies organic foods to independent markets and large grocery store chains, including Whole Foods, PCC, Metropolitan Market, Safeway, Fred Meyer, QFC and Albertsons.