Grocery store truck driver strike ends

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TUKWILA, Wash. - The strike at United Natural Foods Incorporated ended on Wednesday.



The 166 Teamsters will go back to work on Thursday.



Dozens of workers, who deliver tens of thousands of grocery items, stopped working and hit the picket lines on Monday night.



Warehousemen and truck drivers at UNFI charged the company with unfair labor practices, such as reassigning jobs, cutting overtime and hiring nonunion replacements.



After the company offered to return to the bargaining table, the teamsters voted to return to work.



"I want to make sure we support our customers, that they don't get left holding the bag on this whole deal," Teamster Hamilton Lancaster said. "So, as a kind of way of good faith to the company and our customer I said yes, that we'd go back."



Some of the food distributor's customers, such as the Olympia Food Co-op and the Central Co-op in Seattle, had already decided to stand with organized labor by cancelling deliveries from UNFI.



"Labor and cooperatives have a common wellspring in the U.S.," Central Co-op General Manager Dan Arnett said. "We share a lot of values with the labor movement and we're going to express those values as well as we can."



Some of the items the truckers deliver were out-of-stock on Wednesday afternoon at some Seattle stores. Certain types of Amy's frozen foods were out at one store; Kashi cereals were hard to find at another.



The Teamsters' charges of unfair labor practices will continue to be investigated by the National Labor Relations Board.



UNFI denied the allegations, calling them baseless and without merit.



Lancaster admitted that there is no guarantee that future bargaining will give them a better contract. "There is a chance," he said, "but then also walking back out is not off the table again so there's still things left to be done."



The Teamsters seemed eager to get back to work, with Christmas coming in just a couple of weeks. One of them said that Wednesday's vote was 80 members in favor of the idea and 14 against.