Grocery workers announce strike vote over wages, protections since pandemic

Claiming a lack of protections since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as they "kept Minnesotans fed," more than 3,000 grocery store workers declared their intent to hold a vote to strike on Tuesday.

United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) workers who are United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 663 members made the announcement via a Zoom press conference Monday, claiming employee members have been working without a union contract since March 4.

"We’ve been bargaining for the better part of three months now. We’ve been trying to fight for better wages and protection for our workers, and they don’t seem to be budging," said Lauren Booth, a dairy frozen manager for Cub Foods, on Monday. "They want to stick us with 2018 wages, when everything is a lot more expensive due to inflation."

According to UFCW 663 President Rena Wong, members are seeking a raise of $4 per hour throughout the next two years for full-time employees, and raises every six months for part-time employees (instead of being tied to hourly accumulation).

"We want to make sure workers are being paid in a way that respects their work," Wong said Monday.

A bargaining session between UFCW 663 members and UNFI is set for April 11.

UNFI acquired Cub Foods in 2022 as part of its acquisition of Supervalu. All corporate stores owned by UNFI would be affected by a strike enactment – roughly half the Twin Cities metro Cub Foods locations.

According to UFCW 663, contracts with stores including Lunds & Byerlys and Kowalski’s expired at the end of March, with bargaining sessions scheduled for April 12.

The strike vote will be held Tuesday, with the results announced shortly after on the group’s Facebook Live. 

Unlike healthcare workers, a 10-day "cooling off" period is not required for a strike to begin. 

Cub Foods responded to vote with the following statement:

We care greatly for our team members and have been willing to meet with the union on any day since our last meeting on March 21st, but the union has told us they don’t have room in their schedule. As part of the negotiations, Cub has offered historic wage increases and continued participation in the union health and pension plans on the terms requested by the union.

We’re deeply disappointed that the union is spending a day taking a strike authorization vote instead of using that time to meet with us to reach agreement on terms for a new contract. We are prepared to implement contingency plans if necessary, but we believe what’s in the best interest of our team members is a meeting with the union to finalize the strong offer we have provided them.